Technology-Enhanced Surveillance by Law Enforcement Officials

30 Pages Posted: 5 May 2004

See all articles by Ric Simmons

Ric Simmons

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law


Over the past thirty years, new surveillance technologies have provided law enforcement officials with valuable tools in investigating and prosecuting crime, but have also unavoidably raised questions about the need to protect Fourth Amendment rights and privacy generally. This comment gives a general overview of the different areas in which law enforcement has been using these technologies.

The comment divides surveillance technology into three rough categories: virtual surveillance (technologies such as thermal imagers that are used to gather information in ways that may or may not be a search), "hyper-intrusive searches" (technologies such as wiretaps that gather extraordinarily personal or private information and thus require extra restrictions on their use), and high volume collection (technologies such as facial recognition that collect massive amounts of data from various sources, and subsequently sift through the information to find the tiny percentage that is relevant to law enforcement). The comment reviews and evaluates the various constitutional rules and restrictions that have been placed on these different types of surveillance technologies.

Keywords: surveillance, Katz, Smith, Patriot Act, privacy, Fourth Amendment

JEL Classification: K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Simmons, Ric, Technology-Enhanced Surveillance by Law Enforcement Officials. Available at SSRN:

Ric Simmons (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States

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