Nov 232009
 November 23, 2009  Court, Surveillance Comments Off on Editorial: GPS and Privacy Rights

A New York Times editorial about the Antoine Jones case and warrantless GPS surveillance.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., heard arguments last week about whether police should have to get a warrant before putting a GPS device on a suspect’s car. It is a cutting-edge civil liberties question that has divided the courts that have considered it. GPS devices give the government extraordinary power to monitor people’s movements. The Washington court should rule that a warrant is required.

Antoine Jones was charged with being part of an interstate drug conspiracy. The government obtained evidence against Mr. Jones by putting a GPS device on his Jeep. It obtained a court order to install the GPS devic

Read more in the New York Times.

Nov 172009
 November 17, 2009  Court, Surveillance, U.S. Comments Off on D.C. Circuit Examines Warrantless GPS Surveillance

Mike Scarcella writes:

When federal authorities got a warrant to install an electronic tracking device to track a drug suspect, agents acted in an “abundance of caution,” a federal prosecutor said today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where the government is defending its ability to secretly follow suspects without judicial supervision.

Peter Smith, an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, argued that the authorities did not need a warrant to attach the global positioning system onto the vehicle of the suspect, Antoine Jones, the target of a cocaine trafficking ring in Washington. Jones was convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison. He is challenging the conviction.

Read more on The Blog of Legal Times.


Oct 302009
 October 30, 2009  Court, Featured News, Online Comments Off on On Gmail and the Constitution

Ashby Jones writes:

Here’s a question: Is it kosher for a law enforcement agency to, pursuant to a lawfully granted search warrant, search your Gmail account without telling you?

According to an opinion handed down earlier this year and currently making the rounds on legal blogs (here and here), the answer is yes.

The opinion, handed down by Portland, Ore., federal judge Michael Mosman, doesn’t really delve into the case’s facts. It cuts right to the legal issue: whether the government must notify the subscriber to an email service before the government undertakes a search.


Much of the reluctance to apply traditional notions of third party disclosure to the e-mail context seems to stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the lack of privacy we all have in our e-mails. Some people seem to think that they are as private as letters, phone calls, or journal entries. The blunt fact is, they are not.

Read more on the WSJ Law Blog.

Over on, John Wesley Hall comments:

The sad fact is that an amendment will be required to put a notice provision into the Stored Communications Act. People think e-mail is private like letters in transit, but “[t]he blunt fact is, they are not.” Technology is steadily overcoming the Fourth Amendment. From GPS to e-mail, our privacy is slipping away, and older notions of the meaning of the reasonable expectation of privacy no longer seem to apply. If people think that e-mail is private, then why cannot they have a subjective expectation of privacy “that society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable.'” Katz, infra, at 361 (Harlan, J., concurring).

The case is In the Matter of an Application of the United States for a Search Warrant on the Contents of Electronic Mail and for an Order Directing a Provider of Electronic Communication Services to not Disclose the Existence of the Search Warrant, 2009 WL 3416240 (No. 08-9131-MC, D. Ore.

Oct 292009
 October 29, 2009  Surveillance, U.S. Comments Off on Some Thoughts on the New Surveillance

Julian Sanchez writes:

Last night I spoke at “The Little Idea,” a mini-lecture series launched in New York by Ari Melber of The Nation and now starting up here in D.C., on the incredibly civilized premise that, instead of some interminable panel that culminates in a series of audience monologues-disguised-as-questions, it’s much more appealing to have a speaker give a ten-minute spiel, sort of as a prompt for discussion, and then chat with the crowd over drinks.

I’d sketched out a rather longer version of my remarks in advance just to make sure I had my main ideas clear, and so I’ll post them here, as a sort of preview of a rather longer and more formal paper on 21st century surveillance and privacy that I’m working on. Since ten-minute talks don’t accommodate footnotes very well, I should note that I’m drawing for a lot of these ideas on the excellent work of legal scholars Lawrence Lessig and Daniel Solove (relevant papers at the links). Anyway, the expanded version of my talk after the jump…

Read more on Think Tank West.