Study Guide

1.  What is GPS?

  • Definition from  Global Positioning System: A worldwide radio-navigation system that was developed by the US. Department of Defense. In addition to military purposes it is widely used in marine, terrestrial navigation and location based services.
  • Definition from Sound Underwater Images:  (Global Positioning System) A satellite based navigation system providing accuracy usable for side scan sonar surveys on a worldwide basis. GPS has become a universal, reliable positioning system. Inherent errors in GPS (implemented by the Department of Defense) create inaccuracies of more than 100 meters. Differential base stations can reduce these errors to less than two meters but are time consuming to survey-in and have limited range.
  • Definition from NOAA:  An acronym for Global Positioning System. A network of satellites which provide extremely accurate position and time information. Useful in remote locations or for moving platforms

2.  What are the uses of GPS?


According to The Aerospace Corporation, GPS has many uses.

  • The U.S.Military uses GPS for positioning of soldiers and equipment.  Receivers are carried by the troops on the ground and are attached to vehicles, helicopters, and aircraft instrument panels. GPS receivers are used in several aircraft, including F-16 fighters, KC-135 aerial tankers, and B-52 bombers. Navy ships used them for rendezvous, minesweeping, and aircraft operations.
  • NASA uses GPS to obtain highly accurate orbit data and to control spacecraft orientation.
  • In 2002, it enabled rescuers to drill a shaft to free trapped miners in Somerset PA.
  • Many police, fire, and emergency medical-service units use GPS receivers to determine the police car, fire truck, or ambulance nearest to an emergency, enabling the quickest possible response in life-or-death situations. GPS-equipped aircraft can quickly plot the perimeter of a forest fire so fire supervisors can produce updated maps in the field and send firefighters safely to key hot spots.

3.  GPS and Privacy: Convenience or Invasion?

  • Brenda Miller brings up Bar-Coding & Implanting in humans in High Technology: Friend or Foe, which brings up many ethical issues regarding GPS and how it is used and who in fact uses it.
  • According to ZDNet, Rental cars are being implemented with GPS which brings up many more ethical issues regarding privacy. Rental car companies have used GPS devices since the mid-1990s, installing systems to give drivers directions while they're on the road. "Fleet management" companies such as AirIQ and Fleetrack are also selling newer tracking services that help companies monitor their vehicles.
  • The NY Times takes a looks at GPS in personal vehicles using the OnStar system. OnStar is one of a growing number of automated eyes and ears that enhance driving safety and convenience but that also increase the potential for surveillance. Privacy advocates say that the rise of the automotive technologies, including electronic toll areas, location-tracking devices, "black box" data recorders like those found on airplanes and even tiny radio ID tags in tires, are changing the nature of Americans' relationship with their cars.

4.  GPS and Privacy in wireless devices

·         As one of the first major telecommunications carriers to adopt federally mandated pinpointing technology for wireless calls, Sprint will face serious consumer concerns about how caller privacy will be affected by the inclusion of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology in its wireless phones.

  • What is Future of GPS and where do we draw the line. Would you want to be tracked without your knowledge by a government agency, debt collector, or even a friend or loved one checking up on you?

5.  Is GPS equivalent to Big Brother?

  • Big Brother? What is wrong with a business monitoring their vehicles? Or making sure their employees are doing what they’re being paid to do? Who owns these vehicles, anyway? Does the owner have a right to know how they’re being used?
  • Technological advances in GPS may be used to invade a person's privacy, bring up many Privacy Concerns.  Regardless, people already should be questioning who has access to their location data and for what purpose.
  • In Britain, the government recently decided to deploy global positioning system (GPS) technology to track every vehicle in the U.K. every minute of the day. In the United States, President Bush is acting under apparently self-granted powers to ``authorize'' the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans.  Does US and UK Spying equate to George Orwell's vision of Big Brother?

6.  GPS and Privacy in the workplace

  • Although most companies use GPS fairly, there are some companies that do misuse GPS.  Introducing GPS into the workplace without notifying employees, monitoring workers during off hours and using GPS data to set unreasonable quotas can "diminish the inherent dignity of an employee”. 
  • MSNBC reports that as well as taxi cabs and delivery vehicles, News Crews are amongst the latest workers to have GPS placed in their vehicles.  This brings up issues of privacy, but can increase efficiency.   Once the government starts tracking people's whereabouts, it starts raising concerns, but it can also be used to keep tabs on employees. Automated Waste Disposal Inc. caught one worker speeding, while Metropolitan Lumber & Hardware in New York found a delivery driver goofing off.
  • GPS technology poses a risk to individual privacy and should be carefully monitored, according to an article by The Beacon Journal.  Tracking devices have become increasingly available to consumers, but the law has yet to explore the ramifications of using them to secretly monitor individuals, legal experts say

7.     GPS and Privacy:  Court decisions

  • In a recent Court case a US. Federal Judge decided to pass a law allowing police officers to attach GPS devices without having a warrant.  Civil liberties advocates believe the decision “opens the door for increased government surveillance.”
  • Satellite Snooping is another term for the law enforcement’s use of GPS.  GPS is becoming increasingly popular with law enforcement due to the practice of secretly tagging Americans' vehicles without adhering to the procedural safeguards and judicial oversight that protect the privacy of homes and telephone conversations from police abuses.




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