10.20.14

SCHUMER: IT IS PERFECTLY LEGAL FOR ANYONE TO COVERTLY PLACE A GPS TRACKER ON AN INDIVIDUAL’S CAR AND FOLLOW THEIR EVERY MOVE – SENATOR INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO MAKE THIS TRACKING ILLEGAL, TO PROTECT NEW YORKERS’ PRIVACY & THWART DOMESTIC ABUSERS

Schumer Highlights Real Dangers & Serious Invasions of Privacy That These Covertly Placed Devices Can Create, Like Domestic Abusers Stalking Their Partners, Businesses Spying on Their Competitors, or Spouses Spying During Divorce Filings With $300, A Magnet & A Laptop, Anyone Can Covertly Place These Devices Under an Unsuspecting Person’s Car & Track Their Every Move –Experts Believe That As of 2012, Over 100,000 GPS Trackers Had Already Been Sold to Private Individuals & Number Has Undoubtedly

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled new legislation that would make it explicitly illegal to conduct “electronic stalking” by placing Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices on a person’s car. Federal law currently prohibits stalking, however, people have found ways to get around these laws and legally place inexpensive GPS devices on private individuals’ cars to track their movements, without their knowledge. While the Supreme Court has said that law enforcement must get a warrant to place a tracking device, there is no limitation on their use by private individuals. Schumer pointed to reports of domestic violence abusers using devices to follow their victims, spouses using devices during a divorce to ascertain useful evidence for legal filings, and businesses using devices to spy on competitors. As of 2012, over 100,000 GPS trackers had already been sold to private individuals, and Schumer said that number has likely increased dramatically. Schumer explained that with approximately $300, anyone can purchase a GPS device and covertly place it under an unsuspecting person’s car, often using a magnet and water-proof container, and then trace their every move from a laptop. Schumer said that with a few exceptions for law enforcement and others, it should be illegal to conduct this form of tracking without consent and therefore introduced legislation to bring federal laws in line with advancing technologies.

“Covert GPS tracking on an individual’s car is an invasion of New Yorkers’ privacy and a form of stalking, plain and simple. It should be a federal crime to place a GPS tracking device on another person’s car without their knowledge, and follow their every move, whether it be for commercial purposes, personal gain, or something far more sinister, ” said Schumer. “The way the law currently stands, domestic violence victims, ex-spouses and other vulnerable populations are at risk to dangerous and invasive stalking or tracking, and this legislation will finally make it explicitly clear that this is unacceptable.”

Laws regarding the use of GPS tracking devices vary from state to state, and where they do exist, typically only address cases of domestic violence.  Under federal law, it is not illegal for private individuals to covertly install a GPS tracking device on another individuals’ vehicle without their knowledge.

Schumer was joined by Judy Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary For Families to announce his plan. Specifically, Schumer’s legislation states that no person should knowingly attach a device to a vehicle that reveals its location by transmitting electronic signals, with the intent to place a person under surveillance without their consent. Schumer said there should be common-sense exceptions for legitimate uses, including: where the registered owner, lessor or lessee has given consent; lawful use by law enforcement; tracking a legal dependant; or when placed to reasonably protect the health or safety of the person being tracked.

For example, parents should be allowed to track the whereabouts of a minor, and caregivers should be allowed to track the whereabouts of an elderly parent with dementia. Overall, Schumer explained that the use of GPS tracking devices should be allowed only when there is consent. Schumer explained that it would be acceptable for an employer to track the whereabouts of an employee using a company car, if and only if the employee knows he is being tracked.

Schumer pointed to Justice Sotomayor’s concurrence in a related case, US v. Jones, as an important outline of the privacy dangers presented by unfettered GPS tracking, “GPS monitoring generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations. See, e.g., People v. Weaver, 12 N. Y. 3d 433, 441–442, 909 N. E. 2d 1195, 1199 (2009) (“Disclosed in [GPS] data . . . will be trips the indisputably private nature of which takes little imagination to conjure: trips to the psychiatrist, the plastic surgeon, the abortion clinic, the AIDS treatment center, the strip club, the criminal defense attorney, the by-the-hour motel, the union meeting, the mosque, synagogue or church, the gay bar and on and on”).”


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