Artifact Politics – GPS

In modern society, it is often difficult to escape the clutches of technology and disconnect from the rest of the world. Even in our own homes, constant buzzing from cell phones and other devices reminds us that we are very much functioning in a new realm of technology. In most cases, simply ignoring text messages and social media seems like an adequate solution to this problem. However, rest assured that despite your best efforts, a GPS could still be tracking your every move. Within the last decade, GPS, or Global Positioning Service, has been a hotly contested issue for its powerful abilities and intrusion into politics.

GPS devices use satellite navigation to provide location and time data. Although maintained by the government, its capabilities are accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver. This form of technology was originally created for the use of the military, government, and other pragmatic protection services. However, GPS has evolved and is now used in many other forms. Cell phones, for example, all have internal GPS in order to provide navigation services, among other things.1

While this may seem harmless on the surface, Global Positioning Service has stealthily become an authoritarian political artifact. The location data collected from cell phones and other devices may not all necessarily be used, but the data still exists and is continuing to be collected by wireless service providers and, in some cases, the government.2 It is almost inescapable for the average person not to be tracked at all times. This creates an authoritarian political force in which the population is subordinate to a system that knows our past and present location. Consequently, people can be held accountable for acts committed when no one else may have been around to witness it, or limited other evidence exists.

This political artifact can be looked at in two ways: firstly, as an invasion of privacy and unnecessary tracking measure, or secondly, as a beneficial technological advancement that allows for improved safety among the American public. The greater question is whether the benefits of the latter outweigh the drawbacks of the former. When it comes to protecting our nation from foreign terrorism, as well as domestic crimes that endanger the population every day, GPS can act as positive political force.

There is always a limit to how far technology should go, though, and this very question was challenged in the 2012 Supreme Court case U.S. v. Jones. In this case, a GPS tracker was placed on the underside of Antoine Jones’ car, which the police used to track his whereabouts for 28 days and accuse of him of drug trafficking. The Court ruled that this was indeed a violation of unreasonable search and seizure and a violation of the Fourth Amendment.2 The ruling boiled down to the fact that because this tracking was done by a machine, rather than humans, it was a greater intrusion of privacy.

This court case may have ruled against such an extended use of GPS tracking, but GPS technology is still being used in many other forms. As with any new technological advancement, Global Positioning Service can be used for good or bad. Whether it is utilized for tracking down felons or unnecessarily recording innocent location data, GPS is here to stay and will only continue to dominate the politics of society.


1 “The Global Positioning System,” http://www.gps.gov/systems/gps/.

2 “FBI Still Struggling with Supreme Court’s GPS Ruling,” http://www.npr.org/2012/03/21/149011887/fbi-still-struggling-with-supreme-courts-gps-ruling.

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3 thoughts on “Artifact Politics – GPS”

  1. I think that the GPS is a great tool, especially if you are lost and need those step by step directions to get home or to get to the place you are going. It has definitely saved me more than once! But I also agree that it could be seen as an invasion of privacy at times, too, like in your example of the police placing a tracking device on the car of a drug trafficker. The GPS can go both ways as being a good or bad tool.

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  2. I am very thankful that we can use GPS because I am very bad with directions so without it, I think I would be lost and possibly wander into neighborhoods that aren’t safe. At the same time, I understand why is it an invasion of privacy and it is scary to think that the government know everywhere you go because they can track you. Just like I mentioned in a previous post, technology has its pros and cons. I can see how it is good to have a tool like GPS but at the same time I can see the bad things of this tool.

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  3. GPS has been a great tool in my life and has helped me get to a lot places. I really found your post interesting. I did not know that originally created for military and government use. I did like the point you brought up about being tracked all the time. It’s kind of like someone is always watching you in a way.

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