Well, the other shoe dropped. After a Supreme Court decision earlier this year forbidding law enforcement agencies from using Global Positioning System units to track suspects without a warrant, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has found itself in the position of having to go collect all the now-illegal ones already out in the wild -- 3,000 of them.
FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann revealed this figure during a University of San Francisco conference called “Big Brother in the 21st Century,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which appeared to have no surprise at the number of the units out there.
The ironic part is that the FBI now has to find and collect them all.
First was the matter of finding them.
"After the ruling, the FBI had a problem collecting the devices that it had turned off, Mr. Weissmann said," in the Wall Street Journal. "In some cases, he said, the FBI sought court orders to obtain permission to turn the devices on briefly – only in order to locate and retrieve them."
The Wall Street Journal didn't go on to explain how the FBI then went about retrieving them, but some other publishing venues did.
"[T]he Supremes ruled in part that the placement of the devices constituted trespass," writes Simon Barrett of the Blogger News Network. "Will they now be forced to break the law again to retrieve them? What if these devices have been in place for months? At what point does the car owner own them? How soon before they are for sale on eBay? How many will simply disappear? How many people will have an FBI agent knock on their door? 'Hi I am agent Fred Blow of the FBI, and I want to crawl under your car to recover our very expensive GPS bug that we planted a while back.'?"
Next step, according to Weissmann? "[T]he agency is now 'wrestling' with the legality of whether agents can lift up the lid of a trash can without committing trespass."