No Direction Home: Will the Law Keep Pace with Human Tracking Technology to Protect Individual Privacy and Stop Geoslavery?


The scope and nature of current legal principles regarding individual privacy are not sufficient to respond to the rapid development and use of human tracking technology. The academic use of the phrase “geoslavery” to describe the abusive use of such technology underscores the power of the new technology. This article examines the use of such technology under current federal and state law and suggests potential means for developing greater legal protections against the abusive use of the technology and the intrusion into personal privacy.

The primary legal source for protections against governmental intrusion into an individual’s privacy stem from various federal and state constitutional provisions prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures. Courts have determined that most technologically based human location tracking outside the home is not subject to Fourth Amendment restrictions because it does not violate an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy. In contrast, some analogous state constitutional provisions have been held to require a warrant prior to the police utilizing human tracking technology.

The growing proliferation and use of human tracking technology implicates legal issues under the Thirteenth Amendment. Control and restriction of another individual’s location constitutes one of the vestiges and incidents of slavery. The use of mandatory or voluntary human tracking implants may be the subject to future federal legislative prohibition or restrictions under the remedial provision of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Various federal and state laws have been proposed and enacted to place restrictions on both governmental and private use of human tracking technology. In addition, the use of such technology has been subject to challenge under a common law right to privacy. Increasingly, public and private employers are utilizing human tracking devices to monitor employee movement and conduct. Due to the propensity of American labor law to give greater weight to employer property interests over most employee privacy expectations, there are few current limitations on the use of human tracking in employment.


Internet Law

Date of this Version

February 2006