Technological Surveillance Essay

1428 words - 6 pages

In the reading, Whitebread and Slogobin define technological surveillance as “techniques that enhance the ability to eavesdrop or spy on the activities of others” (book). Technological surveillance can be done in many different ways, which include listening in on you, tracking you, and watching you. Listening in on your conversations can be achieved through wiretapping and planting bugs. Wiretaps are the physical intrusion of your electrical wiring, while planting bugs entails placing an audio transmitting device on your persons or in your home. Surveilling someone through tracking can be done by hacking into their transmissions or physically tracking where they go. Video surveillance is very common; it can be done by physically following a person around. There is also technology available that allows someone to see through walls like x-ray vision (book). These methods of surveillance are very useful, but sometimes very invasive, that is why there are guidelines and requirements that must be satisfied in order to use them.
Technological surveillance is a very important part of gathering evidence. It allows law enforcement to discretely build their cases. However, it is because of this, technological surveillance can sometimes be abused. Technological surveillance, although necessary, creates a credible threat to the invasion of our privacy. The trespass doctrine specified why certain types of surveillance were illegal. The premise was based on whether the information was gained by trespassing on the individual’s property by penetrating the outer barrier. The two cases based on this concept are: Goldman v. United States (1942) and Silverman v. United States (1961). In Goldman v. United States (1942), the Dictaphone was held against an exterior wall; therefore it was not considered a trespass and the courts upheld it. However, in Silverman v. United States (1961), the spike mike was inserted under the baseboard and pushed through the ventilation system. The court excluded evidence because this clearly indicated a trespass, since the spike mike penetrated the exterior of Silverman’s home. On Lee v. United States (1952) is a case that provides an exception to the trespass doctrine. This exception applies to “bugs” planted on someone, who then penetrates the exterior of an individual’s home by invitation. In On Lee v. United States(1952), the courts held that this invitation was like providing consent.
In Katz v. United States(1967), the agents planted a “bug” on the outside of the phone booth. Under the trespass doctrine, this would not involve physically trespassing on the individual’s space. However, the courts discarded the conversations because the agents violated his 4th amendment right to privacy. It was held that Katz should have had a reasonable amount of privacy afforded to him by the phone booth, so the agents should have obtained warrant if they truly had probable cause to do so. This was a pivotal case in...

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