CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Thermal Imaging Gets More Common But The Courts Haven't Caught Up"

From NPR:

Thermal imaging devices have been available for sale online, relatively cheaply, for at least a couple of years. But now, an iPhone attachment will let you carry a thermal imaging camera in your pocket. FLIR Systems, a specialized camera company, plans to release its thermal camera and app for iPhone for less than $350 this spring.

. . .

But technology often changes faster than the law, and now thermal imaging technology is available at our fingertips. How will the availability of these devices affect police, who under current law are barred from using thermal imaging without a warrant? The 2001 decision came at a time when these heat detectors were not "in general public use" — but what now?

Georgetown University law professor David Cole says the key here is not the availability of such a device and app but how people use it. He said the app will not change our expectation of privacy until ordinary people use it in a way similar to the police search in Kyllo.

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