Geofences for Business: The Legality of GPS Trackers

Many potential Lightning GPS tracker users wonder if it's legal to track assets, vehicles, and people via GPS. The answer is that it is legal to use a GPS tracking device on any vehicle or asset you own, but before you use a GPS tracking device on someone else's person, vehicle, or property, it's important to be familiar with current federal, state, and local laws. Laws are continually being readdressed as new cases are popping up in the legal world, so it's important to stay up-to-date on these changes. 

GPS tracking is an easy and affordable way to monitor a person, vehicle, or asset. With minimal effort, you can know where someone is, where they've been, where they're going, and how fast they're traveling. Using a GPS tracker on an employee vehicle can also allow employers to track the behavior of their employees and provide discipline as needed. Tracked behaviors can include drive times, arrival and departure times, idle times, heavy braking, and more. Lightning GPS is a great option for business owners looking to optimize their fleet of vehicles or monitor the movement of important business assets. Before you decide to begin tracking, however, it's important to consider the legality of your GPS solution. 

It's Usually Legal to Use a GPS Tracker If: 

  • You or your organization own the vehicle or asset to be tracked
  • You own the asset that might be taken without your permission 
  • You are monitoring the movement of something that belongs to you or your customer 

Court Cases That Have Changed GPS Laws

Court cases and lawsuits addressing the ethical and legal uses of these devices to monitor the movements of others have multiplied over the years since GPS tracking has become normalized. Many of these cases have addressed the legality of law enforcement officials using these devices to track employees, and to what extent an employer can legally do so. The dialogue about this topic remains ongoing as technology advances and applications for trackers increases. 

Some court cases that have been pivotal in law changes or ongoing legal dialogue include: 

Elgin v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in 2005: In this case, an employee's company-issued vehicle was being tracked during and outside of work hours. The employee ultimately lost the case because the vehicle was owned by the company. 

Tubbs v. Wynn Transport in 2007: A case in which an employee's company-owned vehicle was being tracked without his knowledge. The decision sided with the employer who owned the vehicle and who, according to the court, had every right to track its whereabouts. 

Cunningham v. New York Department of Labor in 2013: In this case, the employee's personal vehicle was being tracked, even after hours, and without his knowledge. However, this employee had been previously disciplined for falsified time reporting. The court ruled in favor of the employer as the GPS evidence clearly showed that the employee was falsifying his work time. 

How to Apply to Your Own Business Uses

When it comes to using GPS for your own business uses, it's important to ensure that you are on the right side of the law. Consulting legal cases can be helpful, but if you have specific questions about certain use cases, we recommend contacting a business lawyer for more information.