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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mosaic Theory of Search

Search here is the kind you would need a judicial warrant for, not a search-engine. I Have been involved in the use of a number of technologies like GPS and RFID which can determine the location of someone in a context. A colleague sent me a note about this new ruling, wondering if those kinds of capabilities could be considered a search? Depending on how much location data was saved and the duration of the tracking. I did not think so, but did some research, and found the below in a law blog (Volokh) where the decision is outlined, which is described in what they call a 'mosaic theory of search':

" ... Here, the DC court determined that continuous tracking for a period of over a month did violate a reasonable expectation of privacy—and therefore constituted a Fourth Amendment search requiring a judicial warrant—because such intensive secretive tracking by means of public observation is so costly and risky that no reasonable person expects to be subject to such comprehensive surveillance ... "
This is further discussed in considerable length and detail at Volokh (quoted above) and in Cato. I am no lawyer, but will this have any effect in the private sector, creating search from a mosaic of scans or recordings of GPS locations? Of course tracking does not typically involve a month of surveillance. Thoughts?

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