Has GPS Made the Adequate Enforcement of Privacy Laws in the United States a Luxury of the Past?

16 Wake Forest J. Bus. & Intell. Prop. L. 400 (2016)

36 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2016 Last revised: 8 Jun 2016

See all articles by Jennifer Urban

Jennifer Urban

University of Mississippi, School of Law, Students

Date Written: January 7, 2016


In today’s society, nearly everyone uses a piece of technology that allows them to be tracked by a Global Navigation Satellite System and rarely do we even consider the ramifications of using these devices. When a person uses an iPhone to get directions via Google Maps they may not realize that while they are gaining information from the website, they are also allowing their movements to be tracked. It may seem like only a paranoid person would worry about being tracked when they are going from their house to work, but the fact that there has not been a line drawn between what tracking information the government may or may not use against you creates a serious problem. This paper argues that due to the increasing use and development of the Global Positioning System’s tracking abilities, the government must make it a priority to develop new privacy laws and clarifications. Because most of the privacy laws and amendments were created decades before Global Positioning System technologies existed, there is a clash between tracking and privacy that is difficult for the courts to decide without updated laws.

This paper begins with an introduction of Global Navigation Satellite Systems and the Global Positioning System. The historical section of the paper gives an overview of the Soviet Union’s attack on Korean Air 007 and its importance on the future use of GPS by civilians. Next, this paper thoroughly explains the complex technologies involved in GPS tracking. The fourth section summarizes the three main parts of the United States Code that apply to GPS and the U.S. Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Policy. Fifth, the paper discusses where privacy laws conflict with certain uses of GPS tracking, which leads into the in depth review of the leading case in this area, United States v. Jones (2013). Finally, this paper concludes with a summary of current, proposed legislation on this topic and suggestions for future legislation.

Keywords: privacy laws, Fourth Amendment, GPS, outer space, satellites

JEL Classification: F01, F20, K10, K30, K19, Z00

Suggested Citation

Urban, Jennifer, Has GPS Made the Adequate Enforcement of Privacy Laws in the United States a Luxury of the Past? (January 7, 2016). 16 Wake Forest J. Bus. & Intell. Prop. L. 400 (2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2712499 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2712499

Jennifer Urban (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi, School of Law, Students ( email )

MS 38677
United States

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