In January 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to the dispute whether it is legally to follow the movements of Americans in cars by means of satellite navigation tracking system without the notice of the car owners and without a warrant for surveillance, as it has been practiced by police and security services for years. The verdict is that such surveillance is illegal.
In fact, the U.S. law enforcement agencies - the police and numerous intelligence agencies – for a long time have used the GPS (satellite navigation system) in order to monitor the movements of the suspected citizens without their knowledge of it and without any sanctions from the prosecutor. The laws frequently cannot meet the requirements of technological advances, and, therefore, gaps in the law relating to the systems of GPS mean that the movement of private cars in the U.S. could easily be monitored through bypassing the prosecutor's permission for surveillance and other formal procedures (Regini, 1999). Fortunately, all new brands of cars are equipped with built-in GPS systems, and a majority of Americans with old cars still use portable satellite navigation systems – there is no any road map in cars now. Correspondingly, while investigating crimes, the police and the FBI placed portable GPS on the suspects’ cars, and such facilities were not subject to the law.
In case of the United States v. Jones, chief judges unanimously decided that warrantless surveillance of American vehicles with satellite navigation systems is illegal. Installing these systems without the knowledge of the owners and the prosecutor’s sanction is also impossible. The U.S. Supreme Court considers that the installation of tracking devices on private vehicles by the authorities contravenes the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits illegal searches. Thus, the unauthorized collection of evidence by means of GPS, in essence, does not differ from the unlawful search (United States v. Jones, 2012).
It should be noted that the decision of the supreme judges is a kind of defeat of the Obama administration, which protected the right of the police to monitor the movement of vehicles on public streets and highways without any warrant and without the knowledge of car owners. On the other hand, decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, which, of course, the lower courts are obliged to apply, have a huge practical impact on all aspects of American life – from everyday life to politics. Judges are appointed for life and cannot be guided by the political preferences of the current administration (Williamson, 1978). Therefore, it is not surprisingly that the conservative majority in the present composition of the Supreme Court has repeatedly adjudicated verdicts that contradict to the considerations of the Obama administration.