We’ve started getting a few calls asking us what we think of new GPS tracking devices that police can shoot at a car that they are pursuing from a launcher mounted to the front grille of their car. The device sticks to the car, allowing the police to track the location of the vehicle until they catch up with it. (See press stories here and here.)
I don’t see any problem with this technology, assuming that it is used in the kind of way that everybody probably imagines it being used. In other words, that:
- It is used only in police chases that commence when a police officer has the equivalent of probable cause of wrongdoing (even if just fleeing a temporary detention like a traffic stop) and do not have time to get a warrant.
- The device is removed and the location tracking ends the first time the police catch up to the person they are chasing.
- The police catch up to the suspect as soon as they can (in other words, no letting them wander around for extended periods of time without pursuing them, in order to learn things about them).
Any other uses of GPS tracking technology outside the heat of a chase should require a warrant.