New York City today moved to dismiss a Fourth Amendment challenge to the “T-PEP” system, which allows the City to collect GPS data on cab drivers. The City argued (among other things) that cab drivers have no reasonable expectation of privacy in this type of information:
The challenged data comes from a system that is required by local law. The data consists of information regarding trips made in a taxi, including the locations and times of the start and end of each trip, the number of passengers, trip distance and metered fare. Prior to the installation of the T-PEP system, drivers were required to create “trip sheets” containing the same information. Pursuant to rule, the Commissioner has a right to inspect any such records as he or she deems necessary. . . . . [T]he fact that the T-PEP system makes it easier to review Plaintiff’s trip data and makes any such review more accurate . . . does not create a privacy interest where none otherwise existed. As the Supreme Court noted in Knotts, “Insofar as respondent’s complaint appears to be simply that scientific devices such as the beeper allowed the police to be more effective in detecting crime, it simply has no constitutional foundation.” Id. at 284. Similarly, the greater efficiency and efficacy afforded by the T-PEP system did not create an expectation of privacy in trip information that drivers did not have when they were expected to record the information manually.
The City distinguished the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Jones, which held that federal law enforcement officials’ placement of a GPS device on a suspect’s car was a “search” for Fourth Amendment purposes :
In Jones, the Court emphasized the Fourth Amendment’s origins in property rights. The Court noted first that a person’s vehicle is an “effect” as that term is used in the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 949. As such, when the Government placed a GPS tracking device on an individual’s vehicle and then used the device to track the vehicle’s movements, it “physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information.” Id. The Court found that this constituted a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. However, it did nothing to overturn the holdings in Knotts and Karo that the use of a beeper to monitor a vehicle’s movements on public thoroughfares did not constitute a search when the initial placement of the monitor was not at issue. See Jones at 951-952. Here, the physical placement of the GPS device in the vehicles is not at issue. Accordingly, the case has little relevance in Plaintiff s claim. Further, it is unlikely that the installation of T-PEP equipment pursuant to regulation, and thus with the full knowledge of both the owners and drivers of taxicabs, could be considered a “trespass” in the way that the surreptitious placement of a device on a private vehicle constitutes a trespass.
The case is before Judge Forrest.