Employers Authorized To Collect GPS Data On Company Vehicles

Tired of relying on employee self-reports and chance observations by supervisors, in 2010 Schindler Elevator Corporation ("Schindler") installed GPS and engine monitoring technologies in its company vehicles. Schindler's employees do not report to an office as part of their daily routine - they travel from their home, in company vehicles, to various work sites and return directly home from the work site at night.

This prompted a complaint by the employees to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia. The employees were seeking an order prohibiting Schindler from using the GPS and engine monitoring devices, allegating that their use contravened the Personal Information Protection Act ("PIPA"). The main issue in the dispute related to whether the information collected by the monitoring devices was "personal information" under section 1 of PIPA.

Under PIPA, personal information is defined as "information about an identifiable individual and includes employee personal information but does not include (a) contact information, or (b) work product information."

In Decision P12-01, the Privacy Commissioner outlined case-law on this issue from other jurisdictions. Two lines of reasoning have formed around the definition of personal information - one which provides for an expansive definition but allows for exceptions, and is based upon the analysis of the Supreme Court of Canada in Dagg v. Canada (Minister of Finance)¸ [1997] 2 S.C.R. 403. The other line of cases stem from the Federal Court of Appeal decision in Canada (Information Commissioner) v. Canada (Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board) [ ], 2006 FCA 157, and define personal information by reference to personal privacy, intimacy and dignity, finding that personal information must not only identify an individual, it must also be "about" a particular individual. This second line of reasoning narrows considerably the definition.

The Privacy Commissioner ultimately sided with the more expansive definition of personal information, concluding that personal information is information that is "reasonably capable of identifying a particular individual, either alone or when combined with other available sources of information, and is collected, used or disclosed for a purpose related to the individual" (para. 85).

The data collected by Schindler could not fall into the category of work product information as this information must be prepared...

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