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NY Appeals Court Approves GPS Tracking of Employees
Based on the court’s ruling in November, the New York State Department of Labor was within its rights when it placed a GPS tracking device on an employee’s private car without his knowledge and monitored him for several weeks (even after work hours and while he was on vacation) to determine whether he was submitting fraudulent time cards. [More…]
The case – Michael A. Cunningham v New York State Department of Labor – is just the latest to raise the question of GPS tracking by the government. In a 3-2 decision on Wednesday, the court dismissed claims by Michael Cunningham, a former Labor Department employee who was fired for misconduct, that the use of the global positioning system device had constituted illegal search and seizure.
The NY Labor Dept. fired Cunningham in 2010, who was first hired in 1980, but had a history of misconduct, relying on data from a GPS tracking device placed in his personal car to show he had submitted false expense sheets and other travel records. Cunningham sued and demanded a new hearing, saying the data should have been suppressed at his termination hearing.
Law enforcement agents do not need to obtain a warrant before placing a secret GPS tracking device on your vehicle, says a Missouri federal judge, who just ruled the FBI did not need a warrant to secretly attach a GPS tracking device to a government employee’s car to track his public movements for two months.
The FBI suspected that Fred Robinson was a “no-show employee” at the St. Louis City Treasurer’s Office — alleging that he collected $175,000 in paychecks without ever actually going to work, reports the Post-Dispatch and Forbes Magazine. While the FBI was investigating Robinson for this and for stealing money from a charter school, agents snuck a GPS tracking device onto the bottom of his Chevrolet Cavalier in January 2010 and used it to track his whereabouts for the next two months.
A court opinion notes that it would have taken “five or six agents” to do it without the GPS tracking device. The tracking device data allegedly proved that the employment time sheets Robinson submitted to the Treasury Office January through March were false.
GPS Tracking Takes Privacy Invasion to a Whole New Level
In November 2011, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in US v Jones, a case The New York Times recently dubbed “the most important Fourth Amendment case in a decade.”
The Jones case will set the precedent for the legality and limitations of GPS tracking without a warrant. The Supreme Courts will address a question that has divided the lower courts for years: Do the police need a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s car and track its movements for weeks at a time?
The NY Times said, “the answer will bring Fourth Amendment law into the digital age, addressing how its 18th-century prohibition of “unreasonable searches and seizures” applies to a world in which people’s movements are continuously recorded by devices in their cars, pockets and purses, by toll plazas and by transit systems.