Elevator Companies Can Use GPS to Keep Tabs on Workers: B.C. Privacy Watchdog

By Keller, James | The Canadian Press, August 29, 2013 | Go to article overview

Elevator Companies Can Use GPS to Keep Tabs on Workers: B.C. Privacy Watchdog


Keller, James, The Canadian Press


Watchdog says GPS tracking of workers is OK

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VANCOUVER - Two elevator companies in British Columbia can continue to use GPS technology to keep tabs on their employees after the province's information commissioner rejected workers' complaints that the practice was an unfair -- and illegal -- intrusion into their privacy.

However, one of the companies was ordered to temporarily stop using the technology until it provides its workers with better notice about what information is collected and how it is used.

The pair of decisions, issued this week, are the latest from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to uphold the rights of employers to track the whereabouts of their workers -- a trend one privacy advocate says is "pushing the limits" of the law and the privacy rights of the public.

Unionized workers at ThyssenKrupp Elevator Ltd. and Kone Inc. filed complaints over the use of GPS tracking. The workers at both companies are members of the same local of the International Union of Elevator Constructors.

ThyssenKrupp has been using devices installed on its vehicles to monitor its mechanics since early 2011, while Kone has issued GPS-enabled phones that record its mechanics' activity since 2010.

The workers argued such GPS tracking violates the province's privacy legislation and represented an "offence to the dignity" of the companies' employees.

The companies, on the other hand, insisted it was reasonable to use the GPS data to more efficiently deploy its staff, ensure mechanics could be located in the event of an emergency, provide more accurate billing information to clients, and ensure workers were indeed where they said they were.

Privacy adjudicator Ross Alexander sided with the companies, concluding they were acting within the law.

"I am satisfied that use of the system is likely to be effective for Kone's stated purposes," Alexander wrote in one of the two decisions.

"Kone mechanics are a mobile workforce who generally work alone in widely distributed geographic areas, so regular in-person supervision is not practical. ... Kone's use of the GPS information is not, in my view, an offence to dignity of employees that tips the scales against Kone."

A separate decision regarding ThyssenKrupp's tracking practices reached similar conclusions.

Kone issues its employees cellphones, allowing them to indicate when they come on and off shift, and when they arrive and leave a work site. The system then transmits that data back to the employer. …

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