• On September 8, 2010, The Washington Times reported on the growing number of legal cases challenging the use of GPS information by law enforcement. For example, in the appeal of an Oregon case involving the use of GPS by federal agents to surreptitiously monitor a suspected drug dealer’s car without a warrant, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in his dissenting opinion that there was “something creepy and un-American about [the] clandestine and underhanded behavior” of the police in the case. In a similar case decided last week, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that Fairfax County police did not need a warrant to secretly install a GPS device on the work van of convicted sex offender. Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Randolph A. Beales wrote that planting the device “conveyed no private information to the police” and “the bumper of a van parked on a public street ... does not provide the setting for those intimate activities that the [Fourth] Amendment is intended to shelter from government interference or surveillance.” But the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has reached the opposite conclusion, ruling that police must obtain warrants to use GPS tracking devices. Because appeals courts across the country are split on the issue, the US Supreme Court is thought more likely to hear such a case. In the past, the Supreme Court has held that police do not need a warrant to employ so-called “beeper” technology that uses a small radio device to indicate how close police are to a pursued vehicle. Law enforcement advocates argue that a GPS device used to follow a vehicle on a public road is simply a substitute for a surveillance tail which does not require a warrant.
  • The draft privacy legislation circulated by Reps. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., that would address online data collection is at the top of the NetChoice Internet Advocates’ Watchlist for Ugly Laws (iAWFUL). According to NetChoice, it has serious concerns about the potential negative impact that these privacy bills will have on the Internet commerce community. The group’s website includes a statement that the Boucher/Stearns proposal would broadly regulate “covered information” in a way that would unduly restrict the flow of useful information and harm the development of ad-supported content and services.