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What Are the Legal Issues Behind GPS Tracking?

GPS Tracking

The technology of global positioning system or GPS has revolutionized the way we live in terms of obtaining location information for personal knowledge and peace of mind. For instance, with the use of GPS technology, a lot of parents are able to track the whereabouts of their children and ensure their safety at all times.

For business owners, GPS has also allowed them to increase security for the goods that they transport over long distances. GPS data also enhances operational efficiency by being able to more accurately determine when and where a delivery or shipment can be completed.

However, as with many technological tools, GPS is finding increasing applications in many other aspects of personal life as well as business. For one, GPS tracking devices are potential methods for sleuthing or monitoring the daily activities or whereabouts of other individuals.

Private investigative work

Tracking a person via GPS is a course of action that professionals such as private investigators and detectives usually take. This is usually achieved by attaching a GPS device on a vehicle. It is important to understand though the legal implications of such an act.

In the United States, federal law has not actually specifically tackled whether it is legal or not for a private citizen to track another individual or property such as a vehicle. However, many states have already ruled that attaching a GPS tracking device on a vehicle should be with consent of the owner.

In terms of private investigative work, it is therefore unlawful to monitor an individual by attaching a GPS device to his or her vehicle per se. However, there may be situations where a client allows a GPS tracker to be installed in his vehicle, and that vehicle may be used by another individual (whether with consent or not).

Other lawful instances of GPS tracking

The law also generally says that it is legal to track your own children under the age of 18 using a GPS device. This is good news for parents who really wish to know the location of their underage children at all times, for security and safety purposes.

The law also states that it is permissible to attach a GPS monitor to a vehicle if it is being monitored for the purposes of legal repossession, in case the owner defaults on the loan on the vehicle. An employer for instance may also provide consent to fit their company vehicles with a GPS tracking device in order to monitor the activities and whereabouts of the employees who use the vehicles.

Law enforcement restrictions

It may be surprising for you to know that in 2012, a landmark decision was arrived at by the Supreme Court, which states that the government and law enforcement agents are not allowed to install or attach a GPS monitoring device on a person or property being suspected of breaking the law without first obtaining a warrant.

This is where private investigators and detectives come in and work with the police in obtaining such information. Generally, PIs are not covered by such a rule and therefore they may be able to carry out such acts – still within the bounds of law, of course, as earlier stated.

PIs and the police

It is in situations like these that law enforcement work goes hand in hand with the private investigation industry, in order to solve cases or file charges against individuals or groups who may be breaking the law. The police are able to develop a stronger case with the help of information and data gathered by private detectives.

Private investigators provide a meaningful kind of service, not only for paying clients or private individuals, but even for the government as well. Their profession, being highly regulated and strictly licensed, enables them to perform sensitive operations such as GPS tracking within legal limits.

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