US police could soon be able to place GPS devices on people's cars to track them without a warrant, if the American government gets its way in a cased currently being considered by the US Supreme Court.
The case, United States v Jones, concerns a Washington nightclub owner who was convicted of cocaine trafficking after police used a GPS device on his car to track his movements, reports Washington newspaper The Hill.
In an appeal, the man's conviction was overturned after judges ruled that the use of the device without a warrant breached the defendant's Fourth-Amendment right to protection from 'unwarranted searches and seizures.'
The government argues that the use of GPS is no different from police tailing a suspect, or tracking them via CCTV footage - a claim that the defendant's lawyers reject, citing the fact that GPS tracking refers exclusively to the targeted suspect.
In seeking to overturn the appeal and uphold the conviction, the US government could be setting the stage for an unprecedented wave of high-tech surveillance.
"If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States," Justice Stephen Breyer told the government's attorney. "So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like 1984."