FLPD Officer Speaks to AP Human Geography Students About GPS and Geotagging
Erin Herbert

Students in Mr. Jason Hamilton's AP Human Geography class received a surprise visit from Fort Lauderdale Police Department officer Tim Shields, on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Shields attended the virtual class via Zoom to speak with students about potential issues of legality with the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS), as well as geotagging.  

Shields, who has also served as an expert witness and has testified in numerous court cases dealing with GPS and geotagging, explained how GPS works through the use of satellites and detailed how law enforcement and government agencies make use of the technology through surveillance and tracking. 

Screen shot of a zoom call

The veteran police officer, who has worked with GPS tracking since 2006, then spoke with students about the legal issues that can arise with different uses of GPS and geotagging, technology which Shields described as a "huge assets to law enforcement officers for several reasons." While these technologies are considered beneficial on numerous fronts, those who make use of GPS tracking must be vigilant of privacy laws and regulations put in place for the safe use of the technology, which can often vary from state to state, Shields explained. 

In addition to giving students a general overview of GPS technology and the situations of both civil and criminal use, Shields also highlighted landmark Supreme Court cases, such as United States vs. Jones (2012), which helped better define laws regarding GPS tracking and search warrants. 

At the end of the call, students were able to ask Shields about his professional experiences as well as other situations where the legality of GPS tracking may be unclear. 

Shields' guest lecture's primary goal was to help students connect the information they learn through their textbooks to real laws and legal situations. "I hope this lesson was able to open your eyes to how these concepts of GPS and geotagging exist outside of the classroom," Shields said.