After some time, the Supreme Court has ruled that if the government places a GPS tracker on someone’s personal belongings, the act is considered a search, which is still protected by the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and require a judicially sanctioned warrant with supported by probable cause. During the case, Grady v. North Carolina, the Supreme court listened to how Torrey Dale Grady, a convicted sex offender, was forced to wear a GPS monitor at all times as instructed by North Carolina officials. Grady challenged this act by claiming it qualified as a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and is an act of unreasonable search.
According to the Supreme Court,
“The only theory we discern (is) that the State’s system of non-consensual satellite-based monitoring does not entail a search within the means of the Fourth Amendment. That theory is inconsistent with this Court’s precedents.”
The Supreme Court also included in the case that GPS trackers placed on cars without a warrant also violated the Fourth Amendment, and considered unreasonable search. It was ruled that no matter if it is a person or object, such as a car or bag, putting a tracker of any source is considered a search.
On the other hand, the Fourth Amendment is still a challenge when it comes to digital technology. It has been taken into account that the use of GPS trackers with digital technology will have to be addressed in the near future, especially with the use of GPS systems in phones, watches, tablets, and cars. For example, the E-ZPass used for toll collection send the car’s location when it passes through a toll. In the end, the Supreme Court ruled that forcing a person to wear a GPS tracker is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, even if the individual has committed a crime. In the near future, we can expect to see more rulings to help regulate the use of GPS tracking as the feature becomes more common and used in everyday life.