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EDITORIAL: Limit GPS use

CR Gazette – The Gazette Editorial Board –

State lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow law enforcement officers in Iowa to use GPS tracking technology as an investigative tool. The bill, House File 2037, has cleared a House subcommittee and is set for consideration by the full House Judiciary Committee.

Under the measure, law officers could ask a judge for warrant allowing them to attach a GPS tracking device to a vehicle for up to 30 days. Tracking a suspect’s movements, backers contend, would help police gather valuable evidence of lawbreaking while saving the manpower needed for officers to physically follow that person.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing a case regarding whether police should track citizens’ movements through personal electronic devices such as cellphones, and what restrictions may apply.

We think the Iowa bill has merit, so long as legislators craft it cautiously.

We believe any request for a warrant to use tracking technology should meet the same strict standards of probable cause as requests for property searches and other types of monitoring. Law enforcement should be required to clear a high legal bar before it’s allowed to track a suspect’s movements with such a device. A lower probable-cause standard, civil liberties advocates argue, would be a misguided infringement on Iowans’ civil liberties. We agree.

We also believe the use of GPS tracking should be confined to cases involving serious crimes. Tracking should not become an everyday law enforcement tool.

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