“Aaahh Steve? My rig caught on fire.”
At first I thought about oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico engulfed in an endless torch of black smoke and molten metal.
Then I realized that the repo driver was talking about his own truck. In all my years of dealing with repo companies, I had never known an auto recovery company, big or small, that was neglectful enough to turn their money maker into an ashen shell.
Before noon I would be awakened by another surprise.
The US Supreme Court earlier this month heard oral arguments in a case that will set the legal boundaries for police GPS surveillance of automobiles. Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that police were wrong to spend a month tracking the every move of Antoine Jones, who was arrested on October 24, 2005 for drug possession (view opinion). A tracking device had been attached to Jones’s Jeep without judicial approval. The high court judges engaged in heated debate about the rights of motorists in connection with the Fourth Amendment.
Although the US Supreme Court is expected to settle the issue of GPS tracking of motorists soon, a three-judge panel of the Ohio Court of Appeals, Fifth District ruled 2-1 earlier this month against the warrantless use of the technology. The majority’s decision was likely designed to influence the deliberations of the higher courts. On November 8, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the GPS case US v. Jones. The Ohio Supreme Court is also considering Ohio v. Johnson in which the Twelfth District appellate court upheld warrantless spying.
The present case began on January 14, 2010, when Franklin County Sheriff’s Department Corporal Richard Minerd’s investigation of a burglary brought him to a white Honda Civic in an apartment complex. Minerd slapped a battery-powered GPS tracking unit under the bumper that allowed real-time tracking of the vehicle’s location, speed and direction of travel. Minerd did not seek a search warrant before acting.
A powerful group of political figures issued a report last week condemning law enforcement’s unchecked use of high-tech surveillance system. The Constitution Project is troubled in particular by the ease with which a person’s movements can be tracked 24 hours a day. The conservative-leaning group insisted on the need to bring the law back in line with fundamental constitutional principles.
“Private sector technologies that enable constant monitoring of individuals are moving inexorably forward, and as they are developed, law enforcement agencies inevitably seek to use these new surveillance tools,” the report stated. “These include not only GPS devices and cell phones, but also laptop and notebook computers, location based services like OnStar, and technologies yet to be developed. Use of these surveillance devices presents serious challenges in terms of compliance with Fourth Amendment protections. While these technologies enhance the ability of law enforcement agents to accomplish their important work, it is also critical that we carry forward Fourth Amendment safeguards into the Digital Age.” (Read More…)
In addition to the recent tales (and sitcom gags) of GPS units leading hapless drivers into bodies of water, we have a new twist on the theme: GPS units leading hapless drivers astray in Death Valley. NPR reports
After a long day, [Donna] Cooper and her family asked “Nell,” the GPS, for the shortest route back to their home.
“Please proceed to the highlighted route,” Nell said.
But what came next did not compute. The GPS told them to go 550 feet, then turn right, Cooper says.
“Well, at 550 feet it was like a little path, and then it was like, go a quarter of a mile and turn left. There was nothing there. She had me running in circles for hours and hours and hours,” she says.
A park ranger explains that this happens “a couple times a year now,” including one incident two years ago in which a mother and her son were lost on an abandoned mining road for five days and the boy died. Rangers are now working with GPS firms to update their data on small and closed-down roads, but say no amount of work will ever replace common sense when it comes to navigating desert roads. Speaking of which, what happened to Cooper’s family?
The privileged life of the Chinese government employee is coming to an end. The southern metropolis of Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton) will be using GPS to track usage of the city’s government vehicles, with the aim of preventing their unauthorized personal use. It’s not that the city is trying to curb unnecessary spending. (Read More…)
The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that police do not need to obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS tracking device to anyone’s vehicle. The case arose after paid informants told the Butler County Sheriff’s Office that Sudinia Johnson was involved in selling cocaine. Acting on this information, Detective Mike Hackney attached a pager-sized GPS tracker to the undercarriage of Johnson’s white Chevy van.
The GPS unit uploaded information regarding the van’s location to a website that Hackney regularly checked. This information was used to follow the van from Chicago back to Ohio, with police prepared to make a traffic stop with drug-sniffing canines as soon as Johnson entered Butler County, as long as “they were able to find probable cause to make a stop,” according to Hackney’s testimony.
It’s a well-kept secret, which will give the willies to people who are (at least publicly) worried about intellectual property: Microsoft has one of their best R&D centers in China. Located in the silicone gulch in the north of Beijing, MSRA (Microsoft Research Asia) is working on advanced technologies, mostly in the visual area. I worked with them once, and they are NFSWing good. They just had another great idea: Why not mine the knowledge of cab drivers when it comes to proposing the best route on your in-car navigation system? (Read More…)
Wisconsin’s highest court yesterday approved police use of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to track motorists, as long as a valid search warrant is obtained. In 2003, Madison Police Detective Mary Ricksecker attached a tracking device to the 1980 Chevy Beretta as it sat on the private driveway belonging to Michael A. Sveum, then age 35. Sveum was suspected of stalking his ex-girlfriend, Jamie Johnson based on nine hang-up calls that were placed at payphones around the city. The tracking device was eventually used to connect Sveum to the time and place of other calls.