How Legal Is It To Track Someone With GPS?

June 14, 2018 Published by
Malcolm Rosenfeld Blog 4 May 2018 - How Legal Is It To Track Someone With GPS_

Over the past few weeks, we’ve focused on GPS tracking and the workplace. We’ve talked about it from the perspective of employees, including when those employees are police officers, but we haven’t taken a closer look at the legal issues of GPS tracking. How legal is it to track someone with GPS? Unfortunately, there aren’t many laws that specifically mention GPS tracking.

That means it’s often not clear whether an employer or individual can track someone with GPS. We’ll look into some areas where right now it’s legal to track your employees as well as where there might be some questions. We’re not lawyers and no matter what, you should always check the laws in your state when it comes to setting up GPS tracking of your employees or any individual.

When is it okay to track someone with GPS?

Whether it’s you, your employer, the police, or a private individual in spite of ambiguities in existing laws around GPS tracking, there are some clear instances, based on law and in legal precedent when someone can use GPS to track an individual. GPS tracking has generally found to be legal in the following circumstances:

  • If a law enforcement agency suspects someone of committing a crime and they have a warrant to use GPS tracking, then it’s been established that they can track a suspect using GPS.
  • If a vehicle is collateral for a loan, you can use GPS tracking to help you repossess the vehicle.
  • You or your company own the items, vehicle, merchandise, or other assets you want to track.
  • You own an item or vehicle that might be used without prior authorization or that might be stolen – like when we wrote about the perfume that burglars stole from a store in California.
  • You are a parent and you are using GPS to track your own children who are under 18.

It’s not legal to track your ex or your current significant other, and it’s generally not ok to track an employee vehicle if they are the owner of the vehicle.

What are the benefits of tracking employees with GPS?

You don’t want to make your employees feel like you don’t trust them. That could interfere with both their morale and if they want to continue working for you. However, there are many benefits and protections for your business, including business assets when you use GPS tracking to monitor company vehicles your employees use as part of their regular job duties. These benefits include:

  • More accurate timekeeping and monitor employee overtime.
  • Keep employees safe and ensure they’re following safety rules and laws.
  • Ensure employees who drive as part of their job are conserving fuel and following the best routes.
  • You can track any employees you suspect of violating policies, breaking the law, or of other work violations.

What are the best practices for using GPS to track your employees?

Like we’ve already mentioned, before you decide whether or not you’re going to use GPS to track your employees, to protect yourself from any potential litigation, you should check that how and if you want to use GPS tracking is legal in your state. We’ve already established what types of GPS tracking is allowed in most states and even if you already know it’s legal where you do business, there are still some best practices that will help you introduce it to your employees as well as help your business ensure you’re getting the most out of GPS tracking while keeping your employees happy. Some of the established best practices around GPS tracking your company vehicles and your employees when they’re at work include:

  • Let your employees know that you use GPS tracking and have a clear written GPS tracking policy.
  • State why your business uses GPS tracking, as well as when, and how the company monitors employees.
  • Ensure your employees are aware of and understand what the consequences are if they disable a tracking device and what happens when GPS tracking discovers an employee has violated any company policy or broken any laws.
  • Only monitor employees during working hours and only when it complies with your company’s GPS tracking policy as well as the law.
  • Make sure you’re only tracking company vehicles that your employees use and not their personal vehicles. When it comes to tracking vehicles or property that your employees own, it’s not always clear if that’s a violation of employee privacy or legal.

Final Thoughts

As far as using GPS tracking to locate or know the whereabouts of an individual, including if they are an employee, the laws in the United States aren’t always clear. It’s generally ok to track vehicles that you or your company own as well as assets like merchandise and equipment that you own and/or that are at risk of being stolen. GPS tracking has many benefits for your business and when done following best practice while following the laws of your state it can help protect both your business and your employees. Here at GPS Technologies, we’re always happy to help answer any questions you have about GPS tracking, including employee tracking, fleet tracking, and asset tracking. Contact us or leave your questions and comments below.

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