Case Report – Federal Commissioner dismisses GPS complaint

In a recently published decision that is dated May 27, 2009, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada dismissed a GPS complaint as not-well founded. The decision is evidence of a developing model for permissible GPS use in the Canadian privacy commission and arbitral jurisprudence.

Decision-makers have recognized that vehicle-based GPS systems entail the collection of non-sensitive personal information. Such systems are therefore ordinarily upheld for common fleet management purposes such as dispatch, scheduling and driver safety. Use of GPS data in support of investigations or exception follow-up also appears to be safe. In this case, for example, the OPC held that it was reasonable for a transit organization (the custodian of the GPS data) to report late arrivals to its contracted driver’s employer. Other requirements include notification and the implementation of reasonable security measures.

The limits? There is an expressed aversion to the use of GPS for routine supervisory purposes; in ordinary circumstances GPS is not a substitute for calling a driver to check on his or her whereabouts. Use of GPS as a tool to manage a documented performance management problem on a time-limited basis might be looked upon more favorably.

The case also raises an notable scenario about PIPEDA application, but I will save my thoughts on this complex subject for another day.

PIPEDA Case Summary #2009-011.