GPS Tracking; Legal?


Recently a judge in New Jersey ruled that use of a GPS device to track a cheating spouse is not an invasion of privacy.  The premise for the ruling is that both parties shared the family vehicle and therefore, either could place the monitoring device on said vehicle. In an attempt to clarify the states’ position on GPS tracking, we held an informal study amongst our peers and researched existing legislation (including that also connected to wiretapping and privacy laws).

As best we can ascertain, there appears to be no definitive list of  state by state rulings on GPS devices and their placement on personal vehicles. Many states require the consent of the vehicle’s registered owner. Although the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that law enforcement agencies’ use of a GPS monitoring device constitutes an “illegal search” and that the potential surveillance subject is therefore protected against this type of monitoring under the Fourth Amendment, that clarity of use as of GPS tracking has not yet been legally defined for private sector use.

According to our knowledgeable friends at Brick House Security (NYC), it is  generally considered to be fair and legal usage of a GPS tracking device if:

  • You or your company own the vehicle.
  • You or your company do not own the vehicle, but you place the GPS device on the outside of the car — (e.g., under the rear bumper).
  • The vehicle is visible to the public — (e.g., in a parking lot or on a public street).
  • You could obtain the same information by physically trailing the vehicle.
  • The vehicle is not situated on someone else’s private property.

It’s generally illegal to use a GPS tracking device if:

  • You need to break into the vehicle to situate the device.
  • You need to physically hardwire the device inside the vehicle.
  • The vehicle is in a place where its owner has a reasonable expectation of privacy — in a private garage.

My suggestion for those wishing to engage in GPS surveillance of a subject, is to contact local police in the desired area of surveillance and ask within.

For additional GPS tracking related information, please read one of our  earlier articles on the subject, below linked.

Our Operatives: Street smart: info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

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