NJ Judge Says Using GPS To Track Spouse Is Not An Invasion Of Privacy

from the expectation-of-privacy dept

DannyB was the first of a few of you to send in this story about a NJ court ruling that said a wife putting a GPS device in her husband’s car, in order to help investigators she had hired to tell her if he was cheating on her, was not an invasion of his privacy.


?There is no direct evidence in this record to establish that during the approximately 40 days the GPS was in the … glove compartment the device captured a movement of plaintiff into a secluded location that was not in public view, and, if so, that such information was passed along by Mrs. Villanova to (Leonard),?

Venkat Balasubramani has an excellent analysis of the ruling and notes some of the oddities in it. The one that struck me in particular was the fact that the court didn’t seem to pay much attention to the fact that the car was jointly owned by the couple, which you would think would lend even more credence to the idea that she had the right to put a GPS device on the car:


There was an interesting fact that didn’t receive as much as attention as I thought it should: the car was jointly owned. I’m surprised the court did not discuss the fact that since the wife owned the car, she could have argued that she had the right to track its movements. (On a related note, the plaintiff, who was a police office, tried to argue that he used the car for law enforcement purposes once in awhile, but the court is extremely skeptical of this argument.) Another fact that the court did not focus on directly is whether the result would have been different if the investigative firm (rather than the wife) was the one who did the GPS tracking….

It was also interesting that despite using a “reasonable expectation of privacy” standard, the court does not discuss the diminished expectation of privacy for the husband vis a vis his wife . . . who is trying to investigate him for having an affair. I’m not suggesting that spouses waive their privacy rights with respect to one another, but if you’re having an affair, is it not reasonable to expect that your spouse may be checking up on you?

I’ll admit that I’m not nearly as troubled as I am by similar stories involving police putting GPS devices on cars. In these types of cases, there do seem to be plenty of additional reasons why such GPS tracking is not nearly as egregious. I’m sure putting a tracking device on your spouse (or in their vehicles) may serve as a perfectly good reason for a divorce, but as a legal matter? Seems like a stretch.

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Comments on “NJ Judge Says Using GPS To Track Spouse Is Not An Invasion Of Privacy”

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18 Comments
Richardsays:

Wait wait wait, I think you’re missing the most disturbing part of that ruling, as I read it anyway.

Apparently, it is ok, because the GPS never reported a position that wasn’t a public place. That’s how I read that little snippet. So apparently, so long as it’s only reporting the public places (like a street, or outside an address) that’s ok? But if it reported a private place (like the inside of a private garage) then it would be bad? Given that cars rarely tend to go to truly private places (parked on the street, public parking, etc) that means there is apparently no grounds at all for a GPS placed on a car to be an invasion of privacy?

Anonymoussays:

What’s truly sad about this whole mess is that anyone (from us all the way up to the judge) is examining in detail whether a spouse can/did invade another spouse’s privacy.

Are you fucking kidding me??!! Our society has completely lost it’s common sense.

If you are married, you have no right to bitch if your spouse sticks their nose in your bidness. You can try to keep secrets, but if you get busted, that’s tough shit! Why are you even married if you are keeping such secrets anyway? Marriage tends not to work too well when you are so much of a self-centered asshole, that you claim “invasion of privacy” when you’re fucking around and your spouse wants to know where you are and what you’re up to.

Common. Fucking. Sense. Why is this even news?

abc gumsays:

Re: Re:

“you have no right to bitch”

Tell that to your SO – lol

“You can try to keep secrets, but if you get busted, that’s tough shit!”

Dear Santa, my SO is an ass

“Marriage tends not to work too well when you are so much of a self-centered asshole”

So, you are not married – amirite?

“Common. Fucking. Sense. Why is this even news?”

I was unaware that this site disseminates “the news”.

Revelatisays:

So its fine for the police to track you, its fine for apple to track you, and its fine for your wife to track you. Why do we even have privacy laws? We should all just have little gps chips implanted in us at birth that give off our location to anyone who cares enough to look.

Besides, if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about… Right?

known cowardsays:

once again our rights go down the tube.

Weird, I get the ?it is her car too? argument. She is a part owner she has a right to track where it goes.

The rest is just to creepy to comment upon. Once again I wish to join the lets repeal the first 10 amendments club. It is hypocritical to claim we have privacy rights and lord them over the world, when in fact we have none.

Rights and Marriage

It would be interesting to hear what most people’s take on marriage is and what rights/privileges one has over against their spouse. It should be noted that rights are usually used to protect against unjust action.

Obviously we would all agree that no spouse has a right to beat, kill, torture, etc their spouse. But do spouses have a right to know where their spouse is? Or to know if they are being cheated on?

It seems to me that a spouses do have have this protection and that would give a wife or a husband the right to track their other with GPS.

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