When is a tracking device not a Tracking Device?

This is a follow up to our earlier post, Electronic (Including GPS) Tracking in Australia.

In Victoria, under the Surveillance Devices Act (Vic) a tracking device is an electronic device, the primary purpose of which is to determine the geographical location of a person or an object.

You can’t knowingly install, use or maintain a tracking device;

  • To locate a person without their consent
  • To locate an object without the consent of the person having (lawful) possession of that object.
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Secrets Revealed

What about a flashing light?

If your car had a flashing light on it, it would be much easier to follow it through traffic, to identify it when it stops somewhere, or to find it in a car park full of other cars (especially at night). 

If an investigator places a flashing light on your car, is that the use of a Tracking Device?

Breaking it Down

Let's look at the definition.

  1. An electronic device
  2. the primary purpose of which is
  3. to determine the geographical location
  4. of a person or an object

This is how lawyers break down the constituent elements of an offence for analysis. The element we are most interested in look at is the third; "to determine the geographical location".

Geographical Location

The 'location' of something is, simply put, where it located in space. If you're looking right at something, its location can be determined relative to your own, depending on where it lies in your field of view. The location of my computer is in front of me. The location of my dog is to my left. These are self-referential locations, but not geographical locations. 

A 'geographical location' is different. This language has been carefully used to carry reference to a location with reference to geography; that is, a location on the surface of the earth. It's not subject to self-reference (eg '10 metres in front of me') - it's a spatial coordinate, a given location in geographical space. 

Given that a flashing light is only going to help you find something if you are already looking at it, it cannot be said to be identifying a 'geographical location'. A flashing light may identify a 'location' in your field of view, but not 'geographical location', because the position in your field of view has no context on its own, and makes no reference to geography. 

Thus it fails this element of the offence, and a flashing light is not a Tracking Device in the State of Victoria.

If we were to place a flashing light on your car, or on an object, in order to make it easier to see, identify, or even track (follow), we would not be committing this offence, as we have not used a Tracking Device.

There are other things we use to help us follow people and objects which are not Tracking Devices either, but we have to keep a few secrets to ourselves, don't we?


If you have any comments or questions about this article, or you think we've got it wrong, please let us know! 

The Team at Privatei.com.au

P.S.
You're being tracked right now!