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Is Private GPS Tracking Legal?

In November of last year the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing a case having to do with the legality of GPS tracking for police investigations.

At the heart of the case was a lower court ruling that threw out the conviction of a suspected drug dealer because the FBI did not obtain a warrant before installing a GPS tracking device on the suspect’s car. The Supreme Court’s eventual ruling on the case was very narrow, dealing only with certain types of police actions.

That leads us to ask whether or not private GPS tracking is legal. In other words, can you track your spouse if you suspect he or she is cheating on you? Can you track the movements of your children without informing them you’re doing so?

A General Summary

Though state laws do vary there are some generalities which apply across the board. Before we list them here however, it’s important to say that you should always check with your state before using a GPS tracking device like the Spark Nano 3.0. As long as you know and follow the law you’ll have nothing to worry about. That said, it’s generally acceptable to use GPS tracking as an individual citizen if:

  • you own the vehicle or piece of equipment being tracked
  • you can install the device on the outside of a vehicle or piece of equipment you don’t own
  • the vehicle or piece of equipment is clearly in the public view
  • the vehicle or piece of equipment is not located on private property belonging to someone else
  • information you obtain from the device could also be obtained by physical surveillance

In most cases you cannot legally use a tracking device if you must open the vehicle or equipment to install it, connect the device directly to an existing electrical system, or enter an area where the subject of your tracking is legally allowed to expect privacy. That means you can’t break into a car, break into someone’s private garage, or hardwire a GPS device to a car battery.

Family Use

It’s generally understood by the courts that there is no right to privacy among family members living in the same household. Therefore, it’s completely legal to use a GPS tracker to monitor the whereabouts of your children, keep track of their driving habits when they get their licenses, and conduct surveillance on a spouse. Whether or not it’s wise to do such things is the domain of the individual GPS owner. But it can be done legally nonetheless.

When it comes to your own vehicle you are protected by the law as well. You have every right to install a device like the Spark Nano 3.0 regardless of who might drive your car in the future. And you don’t have to warn other drivers about it. Whether you want to monitor how fast and safely the car is being driven, or give yourself some measure of protection against theft, your car is yours to do with as you please.