On August 28, 2013, the British Columbia Information and Privacy
Commissioner issued a decision regarding whether an employer is
permitted to use GPS technology to track the workplace activity of
In 2010, KONE Inc. ("KONE") started issuing
GPS-enabled cell phones to its elevator service maintenance
employees. The employees were required to input when they were on
duty and off duty, and also when they arrived at or left client
When an employee was "on duty", the GPS information
from the cell phone was sent to KONE's telecommunications
provider every 11 minutes. No GPS information was sent when the
employee's status was "off duty."
When KONE received the GPS information, it was downloaded into
its computer system for various uses. KONE's stated purposes
for collecting and using the GPS information were to:
Ensure accurate client invoicing;
Use the information as evidence in litigation, for client
invoice disputes, and to provide client servicing records;
Act as a time clock for employees to verify employee attendance
Optimize client response times, which had incidental benefits
such as fuel savings, identifying when vehicle maintenance was
required, and reducing carbon emissions; and
Quickly locate employees in the event of an accident or
In a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner, the employees
alleged that KONE was not permitted to use this information to
manage the employment relationship under the Personal
Information Protection Act (PIPA).
The Commissioner disagreed.
Was the Employer Acting Responsibly?
Subsequent to finding that the GPS information was employee
personal information within the meaning of PIPA, the Commissioner
provided a non-exhaustive list of factors for determining whether a
reasonable person would consider it appropriate in the
circumstances for an employer to collect GPS information:
Sensitivity and amount of employee personal
information – Is the employer collecting more
information than is necessary to achieve its purposes?
Likelihood of effectiveness of the technology –
Is it likely that the collection of GPS information will fulfill
the employer's reasonable objective?
Manner of collection and the use of the personal
information – Were the employees aware that the
information was being collected? How often does the employer access
Availability of less privacy-intrusive alternatives
– Has the employer considered the balance between its
interests and the interest of employees in protecting their
Offence to the employees' dignity.
The Commissioner found that the GPS information was reasonably
required for KONE to manage the employment relationship and that a
reasonable person would consider it appropriate in the
circumstances for KONE to collect and use the information. As such,
KONE was authorized to collect and use the GPS information for the
purposes described above.
Was Adequate Notice Given?
Having determined that the collection of the information was
reasonable, the Commissioner considered whether KONE had provided
the employees with adequate notice of the implementation of the GPS
tracking technology as required by PIPA.
The Commissioner held that KONE had provided sufficient notice
that it was activating the GPS on their cellular phones, and two
separate PowerPoint presentations. The Commissioner nonetheless
recommended that KONE provide the employees with a comprehensive
policy dealing with the collection of the GPS information by way of
the cellular telephones.
Lessons for Employers
The Commissioner confirmed that the use of GPS tracking
technology is a viable option for employers in B.C. in managing a
However, employers who are considering the use of such
technology should keep the following in mind:
The GPS tracking in KONE was done using equipment issued by the
It is crucial that an employer is not collecting more
information than is necessary. In KONE, it was relevant that it did
not continuously monitor or review the GPS information and the
information collected only permitted KONE to determine whether
employees were at work locations.
It is essential that the employees be provided with adequate
notice before the GPS tracking is implemented. This notice must
include the type or types of personal information to be collected,
the use or uses to which the personal information is to be put, and
the purpose or purposes for the collection and use of the personal
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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