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United States v. Antoine Jones

Antoine Jones ran a (now-defunct) club called Levels in DC (located in NE at 1950 Montana) with his partner Lawrence Maynard. Based on suspicions of cocaine trafficking out of the club, the FBI and the DC police department began to investigate Jones and Maynard. In the course of this investigation, a warrant was obtained authorizing the police to secretly place a GPS transponder on Jones' vehicle and track his movements. The police waited until the warrant had expired, then placed the device and tracked Jones' movements for a month.

Jones was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute and sentenced to life in prison on the basis of this evidence. Jones appealed the district court's sentence to the US court of appeals in DC, which overturned the conviction. The US justice department appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. I was involved in the preparation of an amicus brief along with the EFF and a number of others in support of Jones. The EFF has an excellent summary page about the Jones case (including the other amicus briefs), and the Supreme Court page on the case has the complete collection of documents.

An essential point to note about the case is that whatever one might think about constitutional protections against pervasive GPS tracking in public space, inference techniques are so good that such tracking would lead to a great deal of information about an individual's private activities.

Oral arguments were heard on November 8th, 2011.

The Supreme Court held that the government's actions were unconstitutional.
(The opinion is here.)

There has been excellent media coverage of the case.

Date Description Link
Jan. 23rd, 2012 NY Times article
Justices Say GPS Tracker Violated Privacy Rights
Jan. 23rd, 2012 Arstechnica article
Supreme Court holds warrantless GPS tracking unconstitutional
Nov. 9th, 2011 NY Times article
Court Casts a Wary Eye on Tracking by GPS
Nov. 9th, 2011 Arstechnica article
Supreme Court ponders constitutionality of 24/7 GPS tracking
Nov. 7th, 2011 Wired article
Feds Seek Unfettered GPS Surveillance Power as Location-Tracking Flourishes"
Nov. 6th, 2011 NY Times editorial
The Court's GPS Test