Our Worst Nightmares About the Government Tracking Us Just Came True

Illustration for article titled Our Worst Nightmares About the Government Tracking Us Just Came True

It's okay for the government to plant a GPS tracker on the car parked in your driveway, tracking everywhere you go. It doesn't violate your rights, at all—according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.


The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers California, Arizona, Oregon and a bunch of the western US, has ruled that the government did nothing wrong when the DEA planted a GPS tracking device on Juan Pineda-Moreno's Jeep, which was parked in his driveway—without a search warrant. The underpinning for the ruling is that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in your driveway—unless you're loaded and it's kept safe, hidden from the outside world by gates or other security measures—and you have no reasonable expectation not to be tracked by the government.

Your Ever-Bigger Brother
Here are some some other instances of the government putting your privacy in the backseat:
Oregon's flirting with a mileage tax that would track your car with a special GPS unit
The same Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says border agents can search your laptop just like any other piece of luggage
The NSA is looking to store a yottabyte of your personal data
Police are increasingly treating cameras like they're dangerous weapons?

It's the worst of all possible outcomes, our darkest nightmares about the increasingly mindful technology we put in our pockets come true—that technology being blithely turned against us by our government in a move that only be described as Orwellian, even if that goes the writerly instinct to avoid cliches. Because it's not so much cliche as it is fact. That decision says it's okay for the government to track our movements, everywhere we go, without so much as a scratched slip of paper, eliding all of the protections that are supposedly in place to prevent that kind of thing from happening.

The 'slippery slope' is typically deployed as a trope to argue against men marrying men sliding into a world where dudes do dogs, but if you squint, it's not so hard to see how if it's okay for the government to plant a GPS tracker on your vehicle in the night, without a warrant, it could progress to suddenly being okay to flip the switch on your phone, tracking everywhere it went—after all, if Google can know where you're at, why can't the government?

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals is the same court that ruled it was okay to search the contents of laptops without even a reasonable suspicion that you're doing something illegal, arguing they're just like any other dumb piece of luggage. Together these two rulings—along with every other boneheaded government utterance about technology, from copyright to broadband regulation—highlight how desperately we need smarter, more considerate laws, rules and regulations when it comes to how the government can use technology for and against the people.

Otherwise we're screwed.

More: How To Stop the Government From Tracking You (Illegally!)



Update: And here's how to stop it.



sip | bearstronaut

Playing devils advocate here:

I can see how they think this isn't so unreasonable. Your car is in a public forum, outside in your driveway. The government is going to track it anyways, and they have the means to do so without gps (helicopters, white unmarked surveillance vans, shady trench coat followers, etc.).

Doing this just saves them those resources...