Editorial: High Court Correct to Confront 21st Century Technology

Published on Jan. 29 in the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal

The 18th century already seems far removed. A Supreme Court ruling last week highlighted the distance, the justices attempting to apply the Fourth Amendment protection against an unreasonable search and seizure to the 21st century reality of GPS, cell phones and purchasing via credit card through the Internet. The justices had little problem with one aspect of the case. They ruled unanimously that police officers in Washington, D.C., violated the Constitution when they placed a tracking device on a suspect’s car and monitored its movements for four weeks. ...

Other appeals courts have said yes to using GPS tracking devices without a search warrant. Now the obligation to obtain a warrant in such circumstances is more clear. Yet that wasn’t sufficient for Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the justices in concurrence. He argued persuasively for the court to take a more expansive view, moving to define what is a reasonable expectation of privacy in these technology-driven times, when your movements and actions are recorded continuously by assorted devices and cards.

... Technology has the capability of shattering all manner of barriers to information. For the courts, there are few more important tasks than preserving a necessary realm of privacy. Justice Alito and his colleagues want to confront more fully the 21st century. They are right to see the immediacy of the task.