In United States v. Knotts, a 1983 Supreme Court decision, the police surreptitiously attached an electronic beeper to an item purchased by a suspect. They used the beeper to track the movements of the suspect’s car. The Court held that a person traveling in a car on public streets has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements. The Court didn’t care if the police watched or used technology. It found no Fourth Amendment violation either way.I hadn't known about this decision, and it gave me food for thought. Gellman doesn't say whether the police had a warrant; if they did, the decision is in line with my understanding of police procedures. If they didn't, the decision strikes me as a serious escalation of police powers and degradation of civil rights. Furthermore, since the beeper was attached to an "item" and not to the car, it could have been used to track the suspect in relatively private spaces.
I found this a worthwhile read; you might also. Thanks to Francis Harvey for bringing it to my attention.
Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director