As we previously noted here and here, locational privacy continues to be an area of ongoing interest. Yesterday, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that a husband’s privacy rights were not invaded when his wife put a GPS tracking device in his car.
In Villanova v. Innovative Investigations, Inc., A-0654-10T2 (N.J. Sup. Ct. App. Div. July 7, 2011), the plaintiff sued an investigative firm that had advised his then-wife to install a GPS tracking device in his car. The appeals court upheld the dismissal of the plaintiff’s tort claim for intentional or negligent invasion of his right to privacy, finding that there was no evidence that Villanova was tracked while driving “the vehicle into a private or secluded location that was out of public view and in which he had a legitimate expectation of privacy.” Because Supreme Court precedent establishes that people traveling on public roadways have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their movements, there was no intrusion into the plaintiff’s seclusion.
Villanova dealt with surveillance by private investigators, and private investigators in New Jersey say that the decision is a welcome clarification of the law. The Supreme Court will be revisiting this issue in the context of government surveillance next term, when it takes up United States v. Jones. At issue in Jones: whether the police are required to obtain a warrant before installing a GPS tracking device on a person’s car.