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GPS Goes to Court

In what is a first of a kind ruling in the nation, the Washington State Supreme Court declared Thursday that police may not attach a Global Positioning System tracker to a suspect’s car without getting a warrant. “Use of GPS…
February 13, 2004

In what is a first of a kind ruling in the nation, the Washington State Supreme Court declared Thursday that police may not attach a Global Positioning System tracker to a suspect’s car without getting a warrant.

“Use of GPS tracking devices is a particularly intrusive method of surveillance, making it possible to acquire an enormous amount of personal information about the citizen under circumstances where the individual is unaware that every single vehicle trip taken and the duration of every single stop may be recorded by the government,” Justice Barbara Madsen wrote in the unanimous decision.

A spokesperson for the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union compared the use of GPS trackers in law enforcement to “placing an invisible police officer in a person’s back seat.”

Meanwhile, USA Today has an article (not in the online edition) about the use of GPS tracker data as evidence in the Scott Peterson case. Apparently, the Modesto police used GPS trackers to monitor the suspect’s movements for four months before his arrest. Peterson’s defense attorney wants the evidence tossed out. One of their tactics is to question the motives of the experts who are defending the accuracy of such information, claiming that they are self-interested: “I assume you want the judge to rule that this evidence is admissible so you can sell more GPS receivers.” Here, the dispute centers less around the constitutionality of its deployment than on its reliability, resulting in a war of competing experts.

This is a fascinating example of the negotiation process by which a society – or in this case, the courts – adjusts to the potentials of a new technology. Whether it gets adopted or not depends on how it passes these various legal challenges.

Deep Dive

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Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

lucid dreaming concept
lucid dreaming concept

I taught myself to lucid dream. You can too.

We still don’t know much about the experience of being aware that you’re dreaming—but a few researchers think it could help us find out more about how the brain works.

panpsychism concept
panpsychism concept

Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?

The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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