Flight tracking

Interesting analysis this morning from Doug Cornelius, on the legalities of tracking the movements of corporate jets, or hanging out in airports to spot the arrival of investment bankers.

Doug's post sits inside the broader topic of illegal stock trading on insider information.

I learned a few things I did not know before, but the money quote for me is this expression of common sense:

"Those bankers could just easily be coming to offer bankruptcy financing as they could be to trigger an event that would increase the stock price."

The topic of tracking flights for their information value reminds me of the Dutch radio communications expert who last year live tweeted NATO sorties over the Mediterranean and into Libya. Far more at stake than financing in that kind of tracking.

Vertigo05The topic also reminds me of the Fourth Amendment jurisprudence over whether it is okay for police, acting without a warrant, to slap a GPS tracking device on an unsuspecting suspect's car.

Now obviously in the context of police surveillance we are talking about what government can and cannot do, not what private behavior may or may not be legal. But courts considering the proper constitutional limits on government often go back to discuss older court decisions which seem to take as commonplace that police have unrestricted discretion to physically tail - visually surveil - a car by getting into another car and following it. Just as Jimmy Stewart stalks Kim Novak in Vertigo. There's an implicit assumption there, that roads are public places, that you can't disqualify information for having been gleaned by movement in public places.

I think Doug is saying something similar about airports.

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