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NYT+081320+-+Judges+Divided+Over+Rising+GPS+Surveillance

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Reprints This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers here or use the "Reprints" tool that appears next to any article. Visit www.nytreprints.com for samples and additional information. Order a reprint of this article now. August 13, 2010 By CHARLIE SAVAGE WASHINGTON — The growing use by the police of new technologies that make surveillance far easier and cheaper to conduct is raising difficult questions about the scope of constitutional privacy rights, leading to sharp disagreements among judges. A federal appeals court, for example, issued a ruling last week that contradicts precedents from three other appeals courts over whether the police must obtain a warrant before secretly attaching a Global Positioning System device beneath a car. The issue is whether the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches covers a device that records a suspect’s movements for weeks or months without any need for an officer to trail him. The GPS tracking dispute coincides with a burst of other technological tools that expand police monitoring abilities — including automated license-plate readers in squad cars, speed cameras mounted on streetlight poles, and even the widely discussed prospect of linking face-recognition computer programs to the proliferating number of surveillance cameras. Some legal scholars say the escalating use of such high-tech techniques for enhancing traditional police activities is eroding the pragmatic considerations that used to limit how far a law-enforcement official could intrude on people’s privacy without court oversight. They have called for a fundamental rethinking of how to apply Fourth Amendment privacy rights in the 21st century.
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