GPS locator raises concerns among Apsen Dental employees
Published 4:39 p.m. Tuesday 3 January 2023
The week before last, Aspen Dental employees were notified by a patient that a suspicious person had attached something to an employee’s car.
A Facebook post by staffer Leia Freeman detailing the encounter has been shared over 2,000 times.
“A patient walked in and told us she saw someone passing, got out of her truck and taped something under our colleague’s car,” Freeman said in her post. “We all run outside and pull out a tracker. We called the police and it was the second call they received.”
After an investigation into the incident by Danville Police, they discovered that the GPS tracker was attached to the vehicle as part of an ongoing investigation by another agency.
“We can only say limited, but we can say that there is no danger to the public,” said Deputy Police Chief Glenn Doan. “It was part of a police investigation in which Danville PD is not involved. We verified that it was authorized and part of an investigation in another jurisdiction into another matter.”
A 2012 Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Jones noted that attaching a GPS tracker to a suspect’s vehicle by law enforcement would be considered a 4th Amendment search and that a warrant would be required.
Boyle County Assistant Attorney Sarah Bryant said the issue still has some nuances.
“Jurisprudence can go both ways. In some jurisdictions you need a warrant from a judge and in others you don’t,” Bryant said. “It depends on where the vehicle was when the tracker was attached. Regardless of whether it is private property or public property where the expectation of privacy is lower.
She continued: “Law Law enforcement agencies have been using the technology for years. I started practicing law in Madison County in the late 2000’s as a public defender. I’ve had several instances where law enforcement in Madison County placed trackers on suspected drug dealers’ vehicles.”
Tracking technology isn’t just used by law enforcement agencies. According to NPR, law enforcement agencies across the country have seen an increase in tracking devices like Apple AirTags being used by criminals to track vehicles and personal property they want to steal.
AirTags also raised concerns from domestic violence organizations that the technology could be used for stalking. Two California women who have been victims of stalking and harassment have filed a class action lawsuit against Apple, saying the technology was used by their stalkers to track them.
Because tracking technology is used by both criminals and law enforcement, Bryant said you should use your best judgment if you see someone attaching objects to vehicles.
“It’s an ethical and moral issue,” Bryant said. “If you believe something bad is going to happen, whether you do so proactively or remain silent, it depends on the ethics of the individual and the circumstances of the situation.”