Last month, the United States Supreme Court had ordered FBI to turn off all GPS devices that were placed without a warrant.
In accordance with that ruling, FBI has disabled around 3000 GPS devices across United States, reports Wall Street Journal. Quoting Andrew Weissmann, General Counsel of FBI, WSJ states that the order has set a ‘sea change’ inside the Justice Department.
The agency is also considering the implications of the concurring justices – whose arguments were largely based on the idea that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the totality of their movements, even if those movements are in public.
“From a law enforcement perspective, even though it’s not technically holding, we have to anticipate how it’s going to go down the road,” Mr. Weissmann said.
But the issue is not just turning off these devices. FBI is also facing problems in retrieving the GPS devices back after they disabled it. FBI has requested the court to allow them to temporarily turn on the device in order to retrieve it, states Weissmann.
The court order banning the use of warrantless GPS tracking was issued in the case United States vs. Antoine Jones, a case in which, federal agents attached a GPS tracking device to the suspect’s Jeep without a warrant.
All nine Justices of the Supreme Court came to the unanimous conclusion that the Government had violated the fourth amendment.
“The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to the vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. The government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information”, the order said.
You can read the entire ruling here (pdf).