U.S. v. Jones: The Supreme Court asks whether the government can put a GPS device on your car without…

Oral argument from the court.
Nov. 8 2011 5:29 PM

Which Way Privacy?

The Supreme Court asks whether the government can put a GPS device on your car without a warrant.

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It’s long been a truism of Fourth Amendment law that the “reasonable expectation of privacy” test is circular. Each time the state chips away at your privacy, you expect a little less. So when Dreeben talks of those cute little beeper cases from the 1980s, and prophesies a future age in which we come to think of GPS devices as adorable little talking friends, he is really sketching out the contours of that ever-contracting circle. Just as the old glass phone booth and the “spike mike” cases seem archaic when it comes to data mining and pen traces, so someday the state knowing everywhere you drive will seem like a big nothing compared with what’s coming next. The justices seem well aware of that fact today, and completely on top of the technology coming down the road, metaphorical and actual—even if they’re unsure where to draw the constitutional lines.