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Vehicle Tracking: Right to Privacy and Human Rights Legislation.


Vehicle Tracking is, by it’s very nature, often seen by drivers as a technology which is highly intrusive, an infringement upon their right to privacy and another stick used to beat the back of the employee.

There is no doubt that in some organisations this is probably a true reflection of both the concerns of the workers and how Vehicle Tracking is used by organisations with poor management.

An employee who feels that he is being watched by Big Brother may become resentful.  A workforce that feels exploited and put upon is less likely to want to positively contribute to the success of the enterprise.  However, this need not be the case. 

Introducing Vehicle Tracking should be a transparent process, involving dialogue between employer and employees.  Vehicle Tracking should both used by both parties positive step which can help increase productivity, reduce costs, improve customer service, ensure driver safety and ultimately be used to the benefit of employer, employee and customer.

Employers who implement vehicle tracking systems on vehicles driven by employees should be aware that the use of information and data gathered by these systems are regulated by numerous pieces of legislation. 

The use of data and the actions taken by an employer or public body as a result of information gathered by technology such as Vehicle Tracking are governed under Data Protection, Human Rights and Employment Rights legislation.  However, this protection is not explicit and well defined  in relation to Vehicle Tracking itself and as such legal guidance should always be sought to ensure compliance with the law.

To quote from the Freight Best Practice Guide

As data is collected relating to the performance and even personal identity of drivers, issues surrounding privacy arise. The benefits of risk management and cost efficiency will have to be balanced against the civil liberties of employees. Management should be aware of the;

To quote the trade union Amicus and an extract from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)  publication; The Employment Practices Code

  • 3.5 In-vehicle monitoring

    Devices can record or transmit information such as the location of a vehicle, the distance it has covered and information about the user’s driving habits. Monitoring of vehicle movements, where the vehicle is allocated to a specific driver, and information about the performance of the vehicle can therefore be linked to a specific individual, will fall within the scope of the Data Protection Act.

    3.5.1 If in-vehicle monitoring is or will be used, consider – preferably using an impact assessment – whether the benefits justify the adverse impact.

    Key points and possible actions

    • Where private use of a vehicle is allowed, monitoring its movements when used privately, without the freely given consent of the user, will rarely be justified.
    • If the vehicle is for both private and business use, it ought to be possible to provide a ‘privacy button’ or similar arrangement to enable the monitoring to be disabled.
    • Where an employer is under a legal obligation to monitor the use of vehicles, even if used privately, for example by fitting a tachograph to a lorry, then the legal obligation will take precedence.

    3.5.2 Set out a policy that states what private use can be made of vehicles provided by, or on behalf of, the employer, and any conditions attached to use.

    Key points and possible actions

    • Make sure, either in the policy or separately, that details of the nature and extent of monitoring are set out.
    • Check that workers using vehicles are aware of the policy.

The Data Protection Act 1998 includes rules about how and when data is collected, used and shared.  Citizens expect that their right to privacy is protected and personal data is not misused.  What is or is not personal data is not always obvious. The following extract from the ICO publication Data Protection Technical Guidance: Determining what is personal data? serves as an example.

    8 Processing which has an impact on individuals

    Does the data impact or have the potential to impact on an individual, whether in a personal, family, business or professional capacity?

    Yes The data is 'personal data' for the purposes of the DPA.

    No The data is unlikely to be 'personal data'.

    8.1 Can data about objects be personal data about an individual even though the data controller does not currently use such data to learn, record or determine something about that individual?

    Even though the data is not usually processed by the data controller to provide information about an individual, if there is a reasonable chance that the data will be processed for that purpose, the data will be personal data.

Example: A taxi firm may record the movements of the taxis in its fleet by using vehicle tracking devices. The data is used by the firm to help provide the taxi service in that the control centre will know where all the taxis are at any one time and will therefore, on receiving a request for a taxi, be able to direct the nearest taxi to pick up the new passenger. The data is not intended to be used to inform the taxi firm as to the whereabouts of each individual taxi driver, but to plot the location of the fleet of taxis.

Even though the data was not intended to be used to record individual drivers' movements, the taxi control staff will usually know which driver is driving which taxi at any particular time and the data could therefore be used, without any adjustment, to locate a driver.


If family members needed to contact a taxi driver, they could ask one of the taxi control staff to use the taxi location data to provide the location. Consequently the taxi location data may be personal data about the taxi drivers.

If, as a matter of fact, data is occasionally processed to learn something about an individual, even though it was not the data controller's intention to process the data for this purpose, this data will be personal data as the processing does, or is likely to, impact on the individual.

Example: If we consider the taxi location data referred to in the example given above, if the control centre occasionally uses the taxi data to locate individual drivers, even though this was not the data controller's primary purpose for processing, the taxi location data will be personal data about the individual drivers.

When considering data about objects, if the data is processed to provide particular information about an individual (for example, information about a biscuit-making machine is used to assess the productivity of the operator of the machine) the data will be personal data.

Where data about objects is not currently processed to provide particular information about an individual, but could be processed to provide information about an individual (for example, taxi location data) the data is likely to be personal data.

What is being considered here is whether the processing of the information has or could have a resulting impact upon the individual even though the content of the data is not directly about that individual, nor is there any intention to process the data for the purpose of determining or influencing the way that person is treated.

There will be circumstances where it remains uncertain whether particular data is personal data. Where this is the case we consider that, as a matter of good practice, you should still treat the information with care and, in particular, ensure it is held and disposed of securely.

For further information relating to the Data Protection Act and employment rights please visit the web sites of

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