The Deadliest Catch
Potential Risks of netting Employee data with GPS Smartphone Tracking Apps
Today mobile devices are giving businesses unprecedented access to their employees. They can call their employees 24/7. But some companies are going further. They are asking everyone in the company to install GPS tracking apps on their smartphones. These apps can keep track of the whereabouts of the employees during every working hour. Of course, this practice raises a lot of legal and ethical questions. Employers should understand the full implications of their decision to use these GPS tracking mobile apps.
Reasons for Tracking Employees
Businesses might start tracking employees for some legitimate benefits. For example:
• Increasing Efficiency: Delivery businesses, like food or postal services, can use GPS tracked data to improve the efficiency of delivery routes.
• Compliance: GPS data can help companies to implement better overtime tracking procedures. Companies can also use GPS information for following safety rules and regulations.
• Verification: The collected data can work as a verification tool for any internal or external investigation or dispute. If an employee is suspected of misconduct, this data can be a valuable legal resource.
Risks to Consider
Before implementing any GPS tracking app, it’s essential for companies to assess the risk factors. Think of the who, what and where of the monitoring process.
Who: Businesses need to be super clear about whom they are monitoring and when. If an employee is using his or her device, businesses might accidentally end-up gathering information about a nonemployee. What if the employee’s children also use the device? What if the employee forgets to log out for lunch or after work and the app is still tracking the whereabouts of the employee? For a company device, there might be a grey area. But for employee devices, employers don’t have the right to dictate who uses the device or track employees out of work.
What: Companies don’t have the right to monitor everything about the lives of their employees. There are local and country-wide laws that address issues regarding the protection of privacy regarding political views, medical records, sexual orientation and more. If a company accidentally collect information about these issues, it can end up being liable legally.
Where: If companies are collecting the whereabouts of their employees during non-work hours, this data can also expose sensitive information about their employees.
Special Consideration: GDPR
Recently, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has gone into effect. It intends to protect the privacy of any European Union (EU) citizen. Companies who are employing EU citizens have to ensure the security of the employee data. If there is a data breach, companies have to follow the guidelines to inform the employees of the breach. Employers also have to be aware of all the rights the employees have to their data. These new laws can increase legal liability for businesses. The price of GDPR non-compliance is steep. Companies can be fined greater than 20 million euros or 4 % of their global turnover. So it would be prudent for businesses to reconsider their GPS tracking efforts regarding GDPR to mitigate the risks.
Best Practices to Follow
After considering all the risk factors, if a business still thinks that GPS tracking apps will benefit the business, then businesses should follow the best practices below:
• Awareness of Privacy Laws: Companies must understand the laws in their respective areas. They should consult a good lawyer who is knowledgeable regarding privacy laws.
• Only Monitor Company Devices: Companies should avoid “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies. It might save money in the short-run, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
• Provide Written Consent Documents: Companies should ask employees to sign written documents with all the policies explained clearly. If necessary, companies should make their employees aware of the policies through seminars and discussion forums.
• Be Ethical: Employees are human beings and deserve respect. So it shouldn’t be only about what the law allows. Companies should try to be courteous and respect the boundaries of their employees. Doing the right thing is essential.
Employees are the most valuable asset for any business. Building a great company using punitive policies is difficult. Building a bridge of trust and goodwill is essential. Employers should let employees know before they take any step of implementing a GPS tracking app policy. Otherwise, it might come back to bite them.