Follow Up With Stalkers

October 30, 2014

A New York state law going into effect this Tuesday criminalizes the use of GPS devices by individuals to stalk one another. To clarify, “such conduct becomes a misdemeanor only after the target notifies the person responsible that such conduct is unwelcome.” That’s right. New Yorkers will soon be beginning their conversations by saying ‘before we start anything, you should know that I don’t want you to be able to track my every movement.’ As silly as this may sound, attorney Casey Jordan of Tully Rickney warns that “if the person was not aware of it and didn’t demand it be removed, (using a GPS) would still be legal. ”
The new law is in response to the murder of Jackie Wisnewski in 2012 by her ex-boyfriend Dr. Timothy Jorden. Following Wisnewski’s death, police discovered the GPS installed by Jorden on Wisnewski’s car and used to locate her on the day of the murder. Police were previously unable to bring charges against Jorden, although Wisnewski had in fact discovered the GPS before her death. Jackie’s Law, as it is being called, “makes that type of stalking a misdemeanor – provided the person being tracked makes it clear being electronically followed is unwelcome.”
Jackie’s Law is thought by advocates to be a necessary improvement upon existing domestic violence law. Supporters point to statistics saying “one in four stalking cases nationwide involve some type of tracking technology . . . . ‘Many of these cases involve domestic violence, and it is vitally important that victims of domestic violence are protected from such tracking.’” However, civilian GPS tracking extends to political opponents monitoring one another.
United States Senator for New York, Chuck Schumer, hopes to criminalize such civilian GPS stalking nationally. Under the proposed bill, “covert use of GPS trackers would be illegal except for use by law enforcement officials, parents of minors, and in specific cases of patients suffering from dementia or similar diagnoses.”
However, such constant monitoring even by law enforcement has been the subject of recent debate. In 2012, the Supreme Court in US v. Jones warned against “the use of longer term GPS monitoring . . . imping[ing] on expectations of privacy.” More recently, advanced license plate recognition technology systems, “creat[ing] a network of extra eyes [that] can . . . keep a community, city or sensitive area safe,” has been the subject 4th Amendment privacy discussions.
Again, Jackie’s Law still requires that monitored persons make their followers aware that they do not want to be tracked in order for law enforcement to file stalking charges. It does not require that GPS installers notify their subjects. What I want to know is, who are the people fully aware of and welcoming this sort of constant monitoring? Moreover, if we are uncomfortable with potential loved ones to have access to this amount of information, why are we comfortable with law enforcement having access to our every move?