The technology of monitoring devices, such as cell phones, for location tracking is rapidly evolving, while the law still lags. Two federal courts have ruled that the government must obtain court orders before initiating a surveillance to track a subject’s movements via a cell phone. The U.S. Congress is considering H.R.3382, Sexual Predator Effective Monitoring Act of 2005, which would outfit “convicted sexual offenders with Global Positioning Systems to track their movements while on probation.”
California is one of the few states to address the expanding application, according to the article, Effective Use Of Location-Based Technologies In The Workplace.
Despite employee complaints and the potential for abuse, location tracking by private employers is almost completely unregulated. For example, California’s law prohibiting the installation of location tracking equipment on motor vehicles, one of the few state laws addressing the topic, does not apply when a vehicle’s owner, renter, or lessor places the device on its own vehicle.
The National Security Administration has secured a patentfor a method to pinpoint the physical location of an Internet user. Many private companies sell location tracking services for company vehicles. This one was featured in Law Enforcement Technology magazine a few years ago.
Academic studies have addressed the privacy issues raised by location tracking and position aware services.
The site, howstuffworks, gives an overview of the applications of location tracking technology and tells us simple folk how it works.