Telematics: Sensitive treatment of location data in compliance with data protection law

Telematics: Sensitive treatment of location data


According to the Federal Data Protection Act, the satellite and mobile locating also collects personal data. This has consequences for companies that work with GPS tracking and telematics systems. Anyone who has improper technique in use here, obscured operating agreements or has  not accordingly informed his vehicle users, may pay dearly for it. 

This happened to the German Red Cross, who for the effective transport of donated blood and samples had GPS tracking and telematics systems installed in their vehicles. The staff association successfully sued against this technique. Reason: Such a tracking system is an intrusion into the privacy rights of employees. The prior consent of the advocacy of the workforce had been missing, the staff association criticized. In March 2014, the Labour Court Münster followed the reasoning of the staff association and by means of provisional injunction prohibited the further use of GPS tracking and telematics systems.

Check and adjust operating agreements

Fact: The location data from a GPS receiving device contain personal data by definition of article §3 section 1 Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG). Therefore, the use of detection systems is an important issue of employee data protection – and operating agreements must be adjusted accordingly, if telematics systems are used. Because there are clear boundaries set by the data protection law and labor law for these systems, that must be considered. The State Commissioner for Data Protection in North Rhine-Westphalia has published a helpful statement on the matter. Important: By the locating no permanent control pressure shall be exercised to the employee on his work habits.

Goods tracking of the fleet is allowed – with restrictions

Trucking companies can locate their fleet for tracking of goods. According to the legislature here obvious legitimate interests of the company to locate goods are present.  However, if simultaneously data of the driver is stored, several things need to be considered – and communicated with the works council.

Clear arrangements about data handling

If during tracking of objects personal data are acquired, the use of the data must be clearly defined:

  1. In the planning and design of the system it must be ensured that only the necessary and no unnecessary additional data is captured.
  1. Even if there is a corresponding operation agreement – the employee must be informed in any case about the regulations concerning personal data – survey purpose and scope have to be communicated just as well as the rights of information about the stored data.
  1. It must also be clear who has access to the stored data, and how the logging of storage and the time period of data storage is regulated.

Our conclusion:

GPS location information is considered personal data and are therefore subject to the provisions of data protection. But location data are also a major factor in the efficient use of trucks and drivers. Companies that work with GPS tracking and telematics systems, must therefore find and communicate internal company regulations, take accommodate to this fact.

Therefore, we recommend our customers to involve the staff association during the early phases of introduction of telematics already. Experienced council members are aware that the competitiveness of their employer has a huge impact on the job security of individual employees. Therefore, they usually agree to the use of telematics.


Besides the development of software for mobile order management the TIS GmbH focuses on the design and implementation of customized telematics solutions. For over two decades now, the company actively participates in the continued evolution of mobile data communications and logistics.

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