Monday, April 27, 2009

GPS - Are Satellites Watching You?

Investigators are often hired to put a GPS tracking device on cars by the vehicle's owners. The GPC units are small and commonly stuck to the underbelly or inside fender of a vehicle. The data from the units travels to a company that forwards it electronically to the P.I.'s computer in a variety of report formats. P.I.'s pay a monthly fee for the service per client, then they add those costs to their time and bill all those hours to the client. So obviously, GPS tracking can be a lucrative field. It is however, a field filled with legal land mines that can blow a P.I. business away with just one lawsuit.

Each state has its own laws re: the use of GPS. The key is to know what is legal to do. And what is not.

Car rental companies are legally allowed to use these devices to monitor their rental cars in the not-so-unlikely event someone skips and runs with the car. That's because the car rental companies own the vehicles. They hjave a fiduciary iterest in them.

Car rental companies also include ignition shut off switches on some of the cars in their fleet, triggered externally by off devices that put the car in shut-down. So the driver who drove off without paying is shut-out and often, locked in.

Parents are using the devices to track the cars their minor children drive for all kinds of reasons. Many are the cars that have gone off the road and not been found until days, weeks, months and longer. With a GPS mounted to someone car, there's satellite trail a worried parent or family friend can follow to a missing person.

And as you'll learn from the story that follows, scorned lovers are among the others re using GPS devices to track their prey in the hopes of capturing incriminating info in their electronic webs.

Each states has its own laws about G.P.S. devices. Before you, or an investigator you hire, installs one of these units on a car make sure the law in your state allows you to do so. Find out whose consent is required from such electronic surveillance.

Most states recognize the car's owner as having a legal right to place the GPS device on the car. If the car title is in the husband's name only, the husband can put the device on his car.

If the car title is in the wife's name and the husband is tracking the wife, she has a case for invasion of privacy. The husband can... will be be sued... possibly even charged criminally, if he put an electronic tracking device on a car his wife has sole ownership of. In many states, only the person who owns the car has the right to put a device on the car.

If they both own the car, it could be a toss-up depending on the individual. However if the state is a two-party state, meanting both parties must consent to a "recording," a case could be made for invasion of privacy.

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