GPS tracking system or Global Positioning System is used to determine the exact location of a person, vehicle, or an object.

It uses a GPS device and an in-built software to view the location on a screen.

This system is greatly useful in several situations. For example, tracking the exact location can save a life during natural disasters, and when someone is lost. It can also come to use if something is stolen. However, is it always legal to use GPS tracking on people, or cars? It is clearly invading someone’s privacy to surveillance them without their knowledge about it, so there are special situations and laws about when you can do it.

When is it legal to use GPS tracking?

There are a few situations when you can use GPS tracking, they are:

  • You can track your children for their safety if they are underaged.
  • If your organization or you personally own an asset or a car, then you can track it.
  • If you have an asset that is useful to a group of people, so it is often taken away by someone without your permission, then you have the authority of using a GPS tracking device on it.
  • You can track an asset or a car if it is for the purpose of legal repossession.

Who uses GPS tracking most?

The police, military personnel, firefighters, and large courier businesses use GPS tracking all the time. The GPS system is essential for the services these people provide. Nowadays, small businesses and general citizens use it a lot as well.

GPS tracking laws applied to the users

GPS tracking laws vary on who the user is and how it is used.

  • Individual citizens: As a general citizen, it is illegal to use GPS tracking to things that you do not own. So, if you still want to do it on a person, or a vehicle you do not own, then you must consult with an attorney. Neglecting the laws may result in you ending up with monetary penalties as well as a permanent criminal background.
  • Law enforcement: Although the law enforcement departments like the police and military have the authority of tracking someone’s whereabouts without their knowledge, yet they cannot do it just because they want to. It is a must to obtain a warrant before they use a GPS tracker on a criminal suspect or a car.
  • Businesses: As a business owner, the law considers you the owner of every asset and employee of your business. Business owners can track their fleet of vehicles and the employees too, without any terms and regulations, and without any fear of breaking the law. It is your right to protect your assets and keep an eye on your employees’ movement, and you can use GPS trackers for these purposes freely.

Nevertheless, it would always be best to consult an attorney for professional advice before using any GPS tracking device on anyone. Doing this, you will understand the GPS related laws better, and you will be safe from getting on the bad side of the law.

A few Court cases that have affected and developed GPS laws

  • United States V. Jones in 2011: A GPS tracker was placed on the car of Jones, who was suspected of drug trafficking. The tracker collected many pieces of evidence against Jones to prove his crime, but the case was turned against the police at the court, saying that it was a violation of Fourth Amendment rights.
  • Cunningham V. New York Department of Labor in 2013: An employer tracked one of his employee’s personal cars without his knowledge. This case was in favor of the employer at the court because the employee had a previous record of falsifying his work time, and that time too, it was proved by the GPS evidence that he reported falsified time again.

These court cases clearly show that when the case is about an employee and the employer, laws are not that strict, and the employers are given complete rights to monitor their employees. However, when it comes to the police applying a GPS tracker on a private citizen, the laws are more effective, and the police need to be very careful about having permission or warrant before tracking a suspect or it will be a violation to their rights.

So, it can be said that using GPS tracking is not illegal, but you need to know your rights and limits before you do it.