George Orwell’s eerily prescient novel 1984 popularized the term “Big Brother”. The name of the book’s all-seeing dictator has come to refer to any oppressive form of mass surveillance.
Does GPS vehicle tracking qualify as today’s equivalent of “Big Brother”?
When it comes to law enforcement, the Supreme Court so far has come down on the side of citizens. In January 2013 the Court handed down their decision on United States v. Jones, a case in which police placed a GPS tracker on the car of a suspected cocaine dealer. Although they had received a warrant, the police ended up exceeding the geography and length of time specified.
The federal attorney argued that there is no expectation of privacy when traveling public roads. However, the Court agreed with the defense attorney who claimed it was a violation of his client’s Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure.
What about GPS vehicle tracking confined to a specific group, such as a company fleet? With companies needing to keep a leaner profile to compete and stay profitable, GPS tracking is a effective way to improve employee productivity and protect expensive assets.
While there are currently no federal or state laws expressly forbidding the use of GPS vehicle tracking for commercial purposes, employees may seek loopholes in privacy statues and other sources to dodge on-the-job monitoring. Some common-sense steps can help protect your company or organization from such challenges.
- Make sure you can demonstrate a clear, specific business purpose to justify the tracking. Such reasons include accurate timekeeping, improved response time, more efficient routing and increased employee safety.
- Document every aspect of your GPS tracking policies. Employees should receive written notice of GPS use along with its scope, purpose and extent of disclosure. Make this information a part of your company manual or handbook as well. It should be clearly stated that employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy when operating company equipment and vehicles.
- It’s vital that you use tracking only during work hours. Ideally, the GPS tracker should remain on company property during off-hours. If that’s not possible, create detailed instructions on how the tracker should be turned off.