Covert Policing using Unobtrusive Global Positioning Systems Trackers: A Demonstration
Covert policing is a form of law enforcement focused on the use of hidden techniques, including human intelligence and surveillance, for the purpose of collecting evidence concerning an unsuspecting individual. With the prevalence of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and associated technologies, agencies are able to exploit the functionality of commercially accessible GPS devices to assist in carrying out such policing activities. This demonstration considers the use of unobtrusive GPS devices for covert policing purposes, with a specific focus on a commercial product named TrackStick Pro.
The study, which is part of a larger project centred on location-based services regulation in Australia, reveals the results of a pilot that examines the steps involved in collecting, downloading, presenting and applying the geographic information gathered from the respective device, as would be the case in covert policing operations. The outcomes draw attention to the ease with which geographic data can be recorded, stored, duplicated and potentially modified. This calls into questison the credibility of GPS-based evidence when utilised by law enforcement agencies. The ability to supplement the location data with additional information, for instance photographs and video footage, is also discussed, as this enables the creation of a single graphical representation of the collated or layered information, allowing for trends to be identified and evidence to be formulated.
Further considerations in the form of privacy, trust and data misuse emerge from this research, given the covert nature of the examined activities. The demonstration will also discuss accuracy with respect to the technical limitations of the device, where issues of inaccurate or incomplete information as the basis of police evidence become problematic.
Roba Abbas and Katina Michael. "Covert Policing using Unobtrusive Global Positioning Systems Trackers: A Demonstration" The Social Implications of Covert Policing Workshop, Sponsored by both the Centre for Excellence in Policing and Security and the Research Network for a Secure Australia. The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Apr. 2009.