Worker’s privacy right has not been violated by using his vehicle’s geolocation data for dismissal purposes

Free car driver using nagivation

In its judgement of 13 December 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held (four votes to three) that there had been no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding a dismissal on the basis of data concerning the mileage of the employee’s company vehicle collected by a GPS device installed by his employer with his full knowledge.

In the present case, the ECHR found that the domestic courts actually carried out a detailed balancing exercise between the employee’s right to respect for his private life and his employer’s right to monitor the expenditure arising out of the use of the vehicles issued to its employees (§124).

In this regard, the ECHR noted that the GPS system had been installed in the vehicle which the employer made available to the employee for his business travel. The use of the vehicle for private journeys was permitted, on condition that the costs associated with the mileage were reimbursed to the employer (§§ 6 and 94), while the circulation of such information was made available only to the persons in charge of assigning and approving visits and expenses (§13 and 123).

Also, the employee had signed the relevant document, which had made clear that the system was intended to monitor the distances travelled in the course of his activities. It had also indicated that disciplinary proceedings could be brought against him in the event of a discrepancy between the mileage data provided by the GPS and the data provided by him (§§11-12 and 116), which is exactly what happened. It was alleged that the employee had increased the distances travelled in a professional capacity, so as to reduce the proportion travelled on private trips at weekends and on public holidays and thus avoid having to reimburse the corresponding amounts (§21).

In fact, the employee did not dispute the mileage data generated by the GPS device or the discrepancies between those data and the data he had entered in the employer’s reporting software (§122) but rather argued that there were less intrusive means than a GPS system to perform this mileage control (§121).

The ECHR, however, found that the national authorities had not failed to comply with their positive obligation to protect the employee’s right to respect for his private life (§124) by ruling that employee’s dismissal was proportionate to his misconduct of not having properly reported his mileage (§61).

The ECHR’s ruling in the case “Florindo de Almeida Vasconcelos Gramaxo against Portugal” and the dissenting opinion which criticized especially a 24/7 monitoring system are available here (in French):

In Belgium, geolocation is currently not subject to any specific regulation. Rather, it falls under the general framework of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). See the dedicated webpage published by the Belgian Data Protection Authority: