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GPS trackers in company cars: what about the right to disconnect and privacy?

When a company decides to set up a geolocation system for its fleet of company vehicles, it must respect a certain number of rules imposed mainly by the CNIL, but also by the labor law and by the RGPD regulation. GPS trackers cannot be installed in employees’ cars as long as the legal steps to legally track the vehicles have not been taken.

Among the employer’s obligations, giving a right of access to the data as well as a right to disconnect the GPS trackers is essential and must be put in place quickly for a legal follow-up. Indeed, although the vehicles belong in most cases to the company in question, the data is always considered as personal.

Does the employee have the right to turn off the GPS tracker in his car?

Once the announcement of the implementation of GPS trackers by the company in its fleet of vehicles is made, employees may feel psychological pressure following the collection and processing of their personal data (read more about the steps the company must take to implement a geolocation system legally). That is why the employer must offer the right to employees to benefit from the right to disconnect and to deactivate the sending of data. However, the vehicle used by the employee must fall within a certain category of vehicles that can be used outside working hours (break times, lunch, etc.).

droit à la déconnexion

Legal basis of the right to disconnect

When does the right to disconnect apply?

Type of vehicle Use Legitimacy Restrictions
Company owned vehicle Only working hours Legitimate Follow-up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Working hours + non-working hours Legitimate Follow-up during working hours
Private vehicle Working hours + non-working hours Consent Tracking and difference between private and professional km

According to the table above, there are three different cases of use of company vehicles. The employer must refer to these rules in order to disseminate the right rules for the use and disconnection of GPS trackers to his employees. The rules may differ for different employees within the same company, depending on their status, position, etc.

Employees must respect the times when they are allowed to disconnect their GPS tracker and go into “private mode. Indeed, if employees disconnect their GPS tracker outside of the authorized hours, the employer will not be able to control if the vehicle is used outside of working hours, or it will not be able to detect a theft when the vehicle is not used.

Follow-up of a vehicle belonging to the company, used during working hours

The first case is the tracking of a vehicle that belongs to the company and is used only for work. The company has a legitimate right to track this type of vehicle that belongs to it, it does not need the employee’s consent to track the vehicle.

In this situation, the right to disconnect does not apply, unless exceptionally authorized by the employer. The tracking is 24/7, unless the company itself decides to disconnect the GPS trackers.

Example: A moving company owns trucks and vans that are used only for this activity. It wants to verify that the vehicles are stationary at night and on Sundays, when they are not to be used.
➡ No consent required
➡ 24/7 monitoring.
➡ GPS tracker disconnection not allowed.

droit à la déconnexion

Monitoring of a vehicle belonging to the company, used during and outside working hours

The second case is the monitoring of a vehicle belonging to the company, used during working hours but also outside working hours. The company does not need the consent of the employee who uses the vehicle because it belongs to the company, even if it is also used privately.

In order to differentiate between professional and private use, the employee has the right to disconnect the GPS tracker from the vehicle entrusted to him when he uses it outside his professional activity. He can deactivate it when he returns home after work or during lunch breaks, for example.

Example: A plumber and heating company provides its employees with utility vehicles to go to several customers. It also allows the vehicle to be used to travel to a break area and for lunch.
➡ No consent required
➡ Tracking only during work hours.
➡ Disconnects GPS tracker when vehicle is used outside of work hours: break times, etc.

Monitoring of a private vehicle, used during working hours

The third case is the tracking of a vehicle belonging to the employee, therefore used for private purposes but also for the exercise of his activity. The company needs the employee’s consent to be able to track the vehicle. Without this, the tracking is illegal.

The company will have to differentiate between private and business trips. The employee will be able to disconnect his GPS tracker to allow this differentiation and the respect of his private life.

Example: A home help company wants to install GPS trackers in the employees’ personal cars in order to calculate and reimburse the fuel used according to the number of kilometers driven.
➡ Consent required.
➡ Difference between routes taken for work and private use.
➡ Disconnection of GPS tracker once work hours are over.

Respect for the right to privacy

It is sometimes difficult for the employer to set a limit to the monitoring of its vehicles once the system has been installed. However, it is illegal to carry out permanent and excessive surveillance of employees. The monitoring must be moderate and strictly for professional use. These are the duties of the company when it decides to set up a geolocation system in its vehicles.

The respect to privacy and the right to data emitted by GPS trackers in employees’ cars is regulated by the RGPD and the CNIL. It can be enforced among others through the right to disconnect. This limits potential excesses and monitoring outside working hours.

Abuse and excess of disconnection: beware of sanctions

An employee who disconnects the GPS tracker from his or her company car too often will be indicative of potential non-compliance with vehicle usage rules. Therefore, while disconnection should be convenient and easy, it should be monitored. The employee must not abuse his right to disconnect and may be sanctioned by the company. Therefore, the employer has access to the deactivation and activation data of the GPS trackers to verify that the activities correspond to the work of the employees.

évitez les sanctions en respectant les règles dictées par la cnil

How to disable the GPS tracker of a company car

Benefiting from the right to disconnect implies being able to stop sending data emitted by GPS trackers. To do this, there are several possibilities:

  • Unplug the GPS tracker
  • Turn off the GPS tracker with a button
  • Disable the sending of data from an interface (private mode)
  • etc.
Private mode

The GPS tracker in company cars do not have to be installed in a visible way. Indeed, they can have for first use the fight against the theft of vehicles, so it is advisable to put them in discreet places, not necessarily accessible. If the GPS tracker is inaccessible, it must be possible to disconnect it remotely.

It is possible, depending on the model of GPS tracker, to disable the sending of data automatically. However, in addition to this feature, the employee must have the possibility to deactivate the GPS tracker by himself, in order to avoid any psychological pressure and the anguish of permanent monitoring for spying.