National / Crime & Legal

Japan Supreme Court rules GPS tracking of cars is not spying

Jiji

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that GPS monitoring of cars does not constitute spying banned by the stalker regulation law, turning down appeals by public prosecutors.

The top court’s First Petty Bench issued the ruling in the trials of two criminal cases over the use of GPS devices placed on cars to track the activities of targets.

High court rulings on the cases, which found such monitoring activities was not spying, will become final.

The Supreme Court said that illegal spying is an act of monitoring targets’ activities near their homes and other places where they regularly stay.

The high court rulings had limited illegal spying to the direct monitoring of targets, such as by visual observation, and said remote monitoring by GPS devices cannot be punished by the law.

One of the two cases involves a 48-year-old man who installed a GPS device in the car of his then wife, and the other involves a 53-year-old man who put such a device in the vehicle of his former dating partner.

In both cases, the GPS device was installed at a parking lot that the victim regularly used. The Supreme Court said that in the two cases, location information was not acquired near the parking lots, determining that the men’s acts did not constitute spying near the victims.

In the case against the 48-year-old man, Fukuoka District Court noted that stalking activities change in line with social transformation, saying that illegal spying includes the use of electronic devices to monitor objects used by targets.

But Fukuoka High Court later overturned the lower court ruling, limiting such illegal monitoring to spying using eyes and ears near the targets.

In the case against the 53-year-old man, Saga District Court found spying with GPS devices to be illegal, but Fukuoka High Court later reversed the district court ruling.

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