Friday, August 27, 2010

Time Article on American Police GPS Usage

Time Magazine Online has an interesting yet scary story about GPS use by police in the United Stated called The Government Can Use GPS to Track Your Moves. The main crux of the article is that, due to court decisions, nine Western states allow police without a warrant to legally go onto one's property and attach a GPS unit on any car parked on a driveway.  The court's thinking is that there is no expectation of privacy for a car parked outside.  Therefore, the GPS unit data can be gathered and used against anyone all without said individual being charged with a crime.

I am going to keep my political comments out of this blog post.  Instead, what strikes me as a geographer is the realization by society that personal spatial data, the geography of an individual, is so powerful and easily available.  Local businesses seek to obtain location data on smart phones, advertisers desire to know where website visitors come from, regular people use FourSquare to see where their social network is at, and police desire to know the movements of suspects' cars at all times. 

The want to know where other people are and where they come from is as old as humanity itself.  What has changed is that geospatial technology has made such information easily quantitative in spreadsheet form.  This distilled information easily becomes power.  As technology improves expect personal spatial data to become one of the biggest privacy and legal concerns of the twenty-first century.  The battle is already being waged on Facebook..,

1 comment:

Rybu said...

There is also a lot of value in where "people are" and how people move.

I think there is a big difference between where "someone" goes and where a known person goes. If there isn't information that matches the GPS data to an individual I don't think its an issue.

For example - gas taxes based on actual mileage traveled instead of gallons of fuel. It CAN be done so the government is tracking where you go to dinner.