Tuesday, December 06, 2005

US Govt Seeks Vehicle GPS Tracking

E-tracking may change the way your drive | Tech News on ZDNet:

ZDNet has a story on how the US Department of Transportation is funding state-level pilot projects to track vehicles using GPS.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has been handing millions of dollars to state governments for GPS-tracking pilot projects designed to track vehicles wherever they go. So far, Washington state and Oregon have received fat federal checks to figure out how to levy these "mileage-based road user fees."

This is coming around MUCH faster than I thought it would. How much longer before it is a requirement? First it starts as a traffic monitoring mechanism. Then as the big-fat heads consider new faux crisis to get elected on, they will push for it to be mandatory in all vehicles.

I can hear the rationale now: traffic violations can be issued by the GPS monitoring system, track suspected criminals, save the children, and a thousand other short-sighted reasons. In all the noise, the simple fact that this is supposedly a "free" country and its people are citizens and not subjects will certainly be lost.

Sold as a convenience - transformed into a noose...

(and now cue the chorus of "well if you're not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about" government apologists)

Details of the tracking systems vary. But the general idea is that a small GPS device, which knows its location by receiving satellite signals, is placed inside the vehicle.

Some GPS trackers constantly communicate their location back to the state DMV, while others record the location information for later retrieval. (In the Oregon pilot project, it's beamed out wirelessly when the driver pulls into a gas station.)

The problem, though, is that no privacy protections exist. No restrictions prevent police from continually monitoring, without a court order, the whereabouts of every vehicle on the road.

No rule prohibits that massive database of GPS trails from being subpoenaed by curious divorce attorneys, or handed to insurance companies that might raise rates for someone who spent too much time at a neighborhood bar. No policy bans police from automatically sending out speeding tickets based on what the GPS data say.

The Fourth Amendment provides no protection. The U.S. Supreme Court said in two cases, U.S. v. Knotts and U.S. v. Karo, that Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they're driving on a public street.


Post a Comment

<< Home