Authorized Obligations of the GPS Monitoring Software

Thursday October 22, 2020

Many families use GPS tracking apps on a daily basis for a variety of reasons, from tracking kids on their way home from school to notifying each other when they’re expected to get somewhere without the need to send dangerous SMS while driving. However, as GPS tracking has become less of a spy movie tactic and more of a familiar everyday life, users may be tempted to secretly install a GPS tracking application on a family member’s phone and give themselves permission to view their location follow. That’s not a good idea.

Under Michigan law, it is an offense “punishable by a prison term of no more than a year or a fine of no more than $ 1,000” for installing a “tracking device” on an automobile without the owner’s consent or use such a device to “track the location” of a motor vehicle without the consent of the vehicle owner or operator. See MCL § 539l (1) (a), (b). “Tracking Device” means “any electronic device designed or intended to be used to track the location of a motor vehicle, whether or not that information has been recorded.” MCL § 539l (5) (f). While the Michigan courts have not addressed whether a smartphone is a “tracking device” for the purposes of the law, given the broad language of the law (“electronic device … for tracking”) it appears that cell phones are covered.

This means that if you are using an app to track someone’s cell phone and that person is driving a car with their cell phone, you have used a “tracking device” to “track” a motor vehicle’s location, which is illegal without permission of the vehicle owner or operator. Consequently, GPS tracking applications should only be used with the permission of the person being tracked. If that person is driving in cars owned or operated by others, you should also have permission from the owner or operator.

However, there are several exceptions to criminal law. In particular, the prohibition does not apply to “[t]The installation or use of a tracking device by a minor’s parent or legal guardian in a vehicle owned or rented by such parent or legal guardian or minor and operated by minors. “MCL § 750.539l (2) (f). This means parents can use a GPS device to track their underage children while driving their parents’ car, even without the child’s permission. There is also an exception for.” Police services lawfully performing their duties as a law enforcement officer and, for licensed private individuals, investigators collecting information to be used in court and for certain other limited purposes. MCL § 750.539l (2) (g), (j).

You can continue to use GPS tracking apps with other people who have given you permission and with your underage children who drive a car you own or lease. But don’t play a detective. You should not persecute your spouse or adult children without their permission. If you think you need GPS tracking to aid you in a legal process, you should seek advice from a licensed private investigator or attorney.

© 2020 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 296

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