The Monitoring of Employees’ Conduct through the Use of a Global Positioning System (GPS)

The Monitoring of Employees’ Conduct through the Use of a Global Positioning System (GPS)

Fereniki Panagopoulou-Koutnatzi (Data Protection Authority, Greece & University of Piraeus, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3637-8.ch008


The crucial question that this chapter examines is whether an employer may track employees during work hours using the Global Positioning System (GPS) without violating employees’ right to privacy. This chapter argues that GPS installation in employer-owned mobile phones and computers can coexist harmoniously with employees’ right to privacy when the GPS tracking does not seek to keep track of employee whereabouts but, instead, to optimize a travel route and enhance employee safety by providing the possibility of immediate intervention if necessary, such as when a specified location is needed. If a GPS has been installed in order to assist employees in reaching a destination most efficiently, then this system must be placed solely and exclusively for this purpose, and the employee must retain the right to deactivate it at will.
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The crucial question is whether the employee may enjoy a reasonable claim to privacy during work hours. The two main positions on the subject are: (a) individuals’ right to privacy does extend to the workplace, precisely because this environment is particularly fertile for social interaction; and (b) employee conduct during work hours cannot be protected under a reasonable claim to privacy, given that the employee agrees to terms of employment, including workplace activities.

The first position—individuals’ right to privacy in the workplace—is founded in European tradition’s anthropocentric legal system where human value is the cornerstone of legal order, and therefore, employees have a reasonable expectation that their fundamental rights and their privacy in the workplace will be duly protected (Douka, 2011). Hence, as Opinion 8/2001 of Article 29 Working Party (hereinafter “Art. 29 WP”) very aptly states, “the right to the protection of privacy cannot be deemed to be abandoned upon an individual’s entrance into the workplace.”2 Given that social interaction between colleagues at work is commonplace and often involves discussions of private matters (Papadimitriou, 1986), protecting the privacy of this form of social behavior is imperative. Nonetheless, this right to privacy protection cannot guarantee a complete lack of monitoring of employees’ output, as employers have relevant, legitimate interests, too. Therefore, employer interests must also be protected on the basis of a balancing exercise between considering them vis-à-vis the rights of employees (Douka, 2011).

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