General Question

GeorgeGee's avatar

If you discover an FBI tracking device stuck under your car, can you sell it on EBay?

Asked by GeorgeGee (4920points) October 8th, 2010

Yes, it really happened:
http://www.engadget.com/2010/10/08/american-student-finds-gps-tracker-stuck-to-car-fbi-shows-up-to/
Do the property rights of the previous owner end when they stick the device to your car?

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20 Answers

tedd's avatar

Keep it. Its on your car and if they claim they put it there he can sue for tampering with his private property. Win, win. They’re busted and they know it…. unless they pull out a warrant.

cockswain's avatar

Great question. I’d imagine you could sell it unless they came for it, then you’d have zero choice but to give it to them. At least you could see the egg on their face.

tedd's avatar

He could always break it or in some other way damage it, and then give it back to them.

In fact thats probably what I’d do. And if they’re like, why did you break it?! I’d be like, why did you put it on my car?

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Lightlyseared's avatar

Yes. You’d probably be arrested and charged with interfering with a federal investigation but at least you could go to the big house knowing you had the moral high ground.

NinjaBiscuit's avatar

@tedd Yeah but then you get slapped with the fee to fix it. That would be hefty.

ETpro's avatar

I’d just stick it on a US Government owned vehicle so there can be no question that I stole it.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Why not? I’ve done it with dead possums..XD

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@tedd Not necessarily. The Virginia Appeals court ruled last month that police don’t need a warrant for GPS tracking. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals did the same in 2007. On the other hand, the Massachusetts Supreme Court found the opposite. So I’d say the jury is still out (pun intended) on this issue.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
grumpyfish's avatar

There’s a couple of issues at hand. In the UK, someone found a tracking device on their car, their lawyer asked around, nobody claimed it, so they posted it on ebay.

Immediately, one of the TLA’s showed up and requested the auction be taken down, and the device returned to them.

The best course of action if you find a tracking device on your car, before you post it on reddit, is to call the ACLU—they really want to go up against the warrantless tracking law, but need someone to sue. If the lawyers determine there was a warrant, they’ll return the property to the feds.

Doing anything with it will probably be construed as interfering in a federal investigation…

Nullo's avatar

It would certainly serve them right.

I have some friends who work at a full-service car wash that has contracts with two or three local police departments. I’d ask one of them to leave it under the front seat.
Or maybe throw it in an old microwave for a half-hour or so.

Missouri law states that a person’s car has the same protections as his house, meaning that warrants are needed for anything. Dunno if federal law overrides this or not. I sure hope not.

tedd's avatar

Well one thing that occurs to me is that he must not be a very big threat with as huge as that thing is, they apparently fitted him with the 1975 model tracker. Its 2010, I can go buy a GPS thats not even half the size of that thing for less than $100.

Nullo's avatar

@tedd If it ain’t baroque, why fix it? :D
Seriously, though, large institutions will often go long periods of time without updating their hardware. GM, for instance, was still using Iron Age computers before its demise and subsequent zombification. The IRS was (AFAIK) the last organization to stop using Hollerith cards in their computers.

grumpyfish's avatar

@tedd In the article they talk about it, but:

1. That’s a GPS + Cell phone interface—it’s sending tracking data to a central server as you drive around. (Actually, the antenna sticking out of it is probably the cell phone antenna, GPS antennas tend to be patch or chip antennas)
2. It was an older model, that required a battery pack. They wire the new ones into the car’s electrical system, so it just keeps working.
3. Take your Garmin and tape it next to your exhaust pipe for a few months and see if it still works…. industrial hardware isn’t anywhere near the level of fragile that consumer hardware is—that’s why it costs $600.

john65pennington's avatar

Drop it in a mailbox and let the Feds figure it out. this should cause some controversy.

wundayatta's avatar

In my mind, it’s like found objects with no names on them. You could take them to the police to see if they could return them. My understanding is that if no one claims it within thirty days, it’s yours. That would be the ethical thing to do, I think. Treat as you would treat finding $1,000.

I’m sure some people think that if they find it on the street (or attached to their car), it’s theirs. That seems to be what people in my neighborhood think. If we want to get rid of something, we put it on the street and it’s usually gone before the trash men get here. Other people think that if it’s unsecured on someone’s back deck, it’s theirs, too. So there are a range of interpretations about who “free stuff” belongs to.

Anyway, I think they should return it to the police and see what happens. If they get it back, then they can sell it on eBay if they so choose.

Then there’s the issue of the feds showing up and acting all tough, which is pretty obnoxious. Clearly they are embarrassed, and they know that their investigation has been compromised. Besides, they look like idiots to their bosses and to the public. So embarrassment could explain their grouchiness when retrieving the item.

In any case, there’s no need to be impolite. They could tell the guy, very politely that they’d made a mistake and put the device on the wrong car and could they have it back please. “I’m sure you support our efforts to keep America safe, sir.”

Yup. Sure I do.

YARNLADY's avatar

@wundayatta We get that on our street as well

I suppose you could try, but I would retain an attorney first.

krista_ga22's avatar

Lol. This is just a crazy question.. Dont think that you should sell it per-say, but I might look into WHY its on your vehicle IF this were to actually happen to someone! LOL!

Nullo's avatar

Carefully nick the tracker so that it looks like you just cracked the case open with a bad piece of road, and then park in a really deep puddle until the thing shorts out.

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