OK to Track Cheating Spouses with GPS?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 19, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Anyone who has had the sneaking suspicion that our significant other is doing something behind our backs have had the urge to use a GPS to track a cheating spouse/partner.

And, if you ever need to satisfy that urge, move to New Jersey, where GPS tracking of cheating spouses is okay - at least that's how an appellate court recently ruled.

The decision arose out of a case where a man, sheriff's officer Kenneth Villanova, was tracked via GPS by a private investigator, Richard Leonard, who was hired by Villanova's ex-wife, reports The Star-Ledger.

Apparently, Villanova was none-too-pleased when he found out that his wife had placed a GPS tracker into his car. His displeasure was probably compounded by the fact that the GPS tracked him down as leaving the driveway, in his car, with another woman, The Star-Ledger reports.

Villanova sued both the private investigator and his wife for invasion of privacy. He later dropped the case against his wife, according to The Star-Ledger.

But, to no avail. The court ruled that the GPS tracking was not an invasion of privacy, according to The Star-Ledger. After all, all the tracking did was follow his movements on public streets.

Usually in invasion of privacy cases, the individual must have some expectation of privacy. For example, peeping into someone's bedroom or bathroom would be invasion of privacy because they expect some level of privacy in those rooms. However, staring at someone on the sidewalk wouldn't be an invasion of privacy, because on a public sidewalk, the individual has less of an expectation of privacy.

Similarly, in this case, the appellate court regarded the GPS tracking to essentially be snooping someone's movement in public - which can be accomplished in a similar manner by following them around on a public street.

While using a GPS to track a cheating spouse is okay, remember that it's only in New Jersey - and the GPS tracking may only be limited to things that could be visibly seen on the street.

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