employer wants us to install invasive GPS trackers on our personal vehicles if we use them for work

A reader writes:

Due to changes in European and UK law recently, my employer is planning to outfit all vehicles used for business with Telematics tracking devices. I have no great issue with this on the face of it; I have worked at previous employers where their commercial vehicles (liveried vans and trucks) were fitted with these devices, and in my experience, as long as they aren’t used as a stick to beat people with, they generally just fade into the background and become a normal part of work.

My issue is the fact that I am not a company car driver. I took the option of taking a monthly car allowance and mileage reimbursement and purchased my own vehicle that I use for work. Initially, it was pitched to us as getting a device that worked just like a normal sat nav, the difference being that it had the Telematics function also going on in the background (logging speed, distance, location, time stopped, etc. and reporting that back). At that point, I relaxed a little as this was a device I was in control of; I could unhook it at the end of the day and be “off the grid.”

Well, after piloting different systems, they have now decided on a fully fitted system — effectively a box concealed inside your dashboard that is always on. There will be a keyfob that can switch the device to a “privacy mode” so that when you are off the clock it will hide the locations you visited from your boss … but as I understand it, it will still log milage, speed, and distance so your driving style is still monitored and your private mileage is recorded to ensure accuracy of your business mileage returns. Pulling the fuse for the device to disable it gets reported to the tracking company and will be considered a disciplinary offense.

I am not a fan of this … not one bit. No one who drives for business at my level is a fan of this either. I’m picking up vibes that my boss isn’t much of a fan, but is under greater pressure to toe the line.

I know you are U.S.-based, so I’m not going to ask any legal question. My big issues are first privacy: I accept that my employer has the right (even arguably the obligation under duty of care) to track all of this during business hours, and opposing this is not a hill I’m prepared to die on. What I do not accept is any tracking or data collection of any of my private activities in my own vehicle. I don’t accept the fleet manager’s reply of “If you aren’t up to anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about” as any kind of justification. Second, any alteration to the fixtures and fittings and especially wiring of my car is considered to be a modification by my insurer (which increases my premium) and could invalidate my manufacturer’s warranty.

To make matters worse (from my perspective), the company supplying the trackers actually has a plug-and-play version that attaches either to the 12v socket or the diagnostic port. It says on their website that this is specifically for owner drivers who use their cars for business. I brought up this option in the last meeting to discuss this (as from my perspective, this was the path of least resistance for everyone getting what they want) and I was told that this wasn’t an option, as it would make grey-fleet drivers different from company car drivers.

Am I (or we, as I’m far from alone) out of line for bringing all this up? I could sense clear irritation from the fleet manager when I attended a meeting to discuss this. When I raised my privacy issues, he gave me a diatribe about how nobody in the fleet department is interested in where I go shopping or where I go out of an evening and worrying about that is bordering on paranoia. Any issues I brought up about the insurance/warranty were hand-waved with “you always have the option of going back to a company car where these things aren’t going to be an issue for you.”

As I’ve been mired in this for months, only really discussing this with other similar level employees and with us all getting worked up about it, do you think we’ve lost some perspective?

Hell, no, I do not.

You’re being asked to modify your own personal car, possibly invalidate your warranty, and give your employer the ability to track your off-hours movements.

“If you aren’t up to anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about” is offensive in its lack of appreciation for why someone might care about privacy, regardless of what they are or aren’t doing. It’s an attempt to shame people into backing off of important privacy concerns by implying that only wrongdoers should have those concerns, and it has a long and horrid history of being used to justify invasive surveillance. It also ignores the world’s very long history of misusing personal information to harm people who didn’t actually do anything wrong.

Can you take this over the fleet manager’s head? The person in charge of the cars shouldn’t be the person deciding whether the company is going to inflict a major privacy violation on its employees, along with the demoralization and retention issues that could come along with that. I’d go above him, and do it as a group.

I don’t know about the laws in the UK, but in the U.S., if you pushed back on this as a group, the law would prevent your employer from penalizing you for it (because the law specifically protects employees who are banding together about working conditions, even if they’re not in a formal union). But even without that legal protection, a decent employer would want to know that a bunch of employees are pissed off about a change like this — especially when there’s apparently a really easy alternative that would address the concerns (the plug-and-play device that you mentioned).

Speak up, do it in a group, and take it to someone with decision-making authority above the fleet manager.

And don’t get shamed into thinking that there’s something wrong with not wanting your employer to be able to track your life outside of work. You don’t live in a police state, and your employer isn’t your 24/7 overseer.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. badger_doc*

    I might have missed this in your post OP, but why can’t you just use a fleet vehicle? I get that you get a stipend for using your own, but I think the simplest solution is to just use a company-provided vehicle.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      I would assume because he/she decided to take the monthly allowance, and probably decided which car to buy or lease on the basis of that allowance. Switching to a company car now would mean that the LW is out of pocket, because his/her personal car would still have to be paid for.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Plus the OP could have to pay extra for parking or have space limitations at home to park a second car. I would have bought my own car as well only to avoid that hassle.

      2. Shell*

        And since the OP purchased the car for this job, possibly the OP didn’t even need the car prior to this job–in which case that’s a bloody expensive paperweight she’d have to pay for if she switches to a company car and/or changes jobs.

        1. badger_doc*

          Ah, see I did miss that nuance. I just assumed that she would have needed a car anyway, not that she bought one specifically for work. Any way of selling it back or using the sat nav until the lease runs out and then switching to the fleet vehicle (as long as you’re not out of pocket any money that is)?

      3. KH*

        Plus the OP may have specific preferences or like to drive a nice car – the choice of which company car you get is usually very limited – maybe 4 or 5 different models.

    2. OP_Here*

      (LW Here)

      The choice of company vehicles at my level is very limited, I’ve had a company car for the last twelve years, they were ok, but I guess the person who chooses what make/model/trim level you get isn’t the person who’s going to spend a good portion of their working day driving it. So I took the option of choosing my own car with an allowance.

      Having a company vehicle that you have private use of comes with a significant tax liability in the UK, so having a company vehicle in addition to my own would be prohibitively expensive. There isn’t an office local to me with a pool of fleet vehicles I could use (there are other practical reasons why that wouldn’t work also but I don’t want to give too much identifying info away)

    3. Daisy Mae*

      I agree with the solution of using a company car. Push back because this is so invasive but in the end, if they insist then use a company car. I understand that means losing the stipend, but hopefully you didn’t consider that when buying the car since a stipend is not part of your base pay and is not guaranteed to continue. Good luck and please do be sure to send an update in; I’m sure many people are going to want to know how this one turned out.

      1. UK HR bod*

        Aside from the tax issues, taking a company car woudln’t solve the problem – the OP would have to run two cars or would still have the same problem with the tracker recording out of hours. Cars are OK for personal use (hence the tax burden) so the fleet manager isn’t addressing the actual problem, which is tracking personal data in off company time.

    4. YouAreHere*

      And some companies (and government agencies) are so strict about the usage of a company vehicle as to be prohibitive in more ways than just cost. I have a family member who works for a particular federal agency and who has a vehicle provided, but he is not permitted to drive anywhere but to and from work and to and from specific work-related locations. He isn’t allowed to stop by the grocery store on the way home, he isn’t allowed to drop the dogs off at doggie daycare (or in the case of future children, isn’t allowed to take the kids to school or pick them up because a, non approved location and b, you’re not allowed to have anyone in the car that isn’t also an agency employee, including family members). He can’t run errands on his lunch break.

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I completely disagree with the OP.  This IS a hill she should die on because the justification for doing it is so flimsy.  The more they push, the more she should be concerned.

    “…I was told that this wasn’t an option, as it would make grey-fleet drivers different from company car drivers.”

    And?  What difference does it make if all your employer is doing is collecting data for work-related travel?  Data is data.

    The OP could make the argument on the potential invalidation of her personal auto insurance alone.  Is the company prepared to be liable in case that occurs?  What financial compensation is the company going to provide if it does occur?  What happens if the employee gets into an accident off work hours, finds out the auto insurance is invalid, and then must pay out of pocket? 

    “When I raised my privacy issues, he gave me a diatribe about how nobody in the fleet department is interested in where I go shopping or where I go out of an evening and worrying about that is bordering on paranoia.”  

    This is a fantastic point!  Then your boss should have no reason to NOT use the removable device instead then because my hunch is that the one he’s pushing is probably more expensive.

    I could poke holes in these arguments all day, but it doesn’t matter.  I think they’re pushing this for a much bigger reason even possibly at higher cost.  Take AAM’s advice and please die on this hill if you have to.  

    1. Kyrielle*

      Also, if no one is interested in your off-hours activity but it’s collected, it’s also theoretically available to hackers; there’s the question of keeping that information secure.

      But really, the invalidation of warranties/insurance alone is enough. If there’s no interest in your off-hours activity, then they should not need a device that tracks it!

      1. Cari*

        We have countless tales of companies in the UK exposing customer and employee data to hackers. If OP wanted to make that argument, there’s plenty of examples to back up why their employee won’t magically be immune from such risks :)
        Not to mention the seeming increase of crimes targeting people posting their run and cycle routes online, and there’s the added concern for personal safety as well if information about their off-hours routes and behaviours were to be leaked.

        1. Marketeer*

          “Not to mention the seeming increase of crimes targeting people posting their run and cycle routes online, and there’s the added concern for personal safety as well if information about their off-hours routes and behaviours were to be leaked.”

          I thought I was the only one who thought of this. Maybe I watch too much TV, but people hacking into your daily routine is a real thing.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I can’t quite believe people log their start/finish as their home on sites like Strava, but it’s lead to a rash of expensive bike thefts from specialist gangs, I read recently – the thing to do is set a start/finish at an unidentifiable point.

            1. Cecily*

              Yup, that’s a thing. Strava actually has a feature where you can set a bubble around your house where info won’t be displayed. Obviously don’t just center it! I think it depends upon where you are, though because I just use the bubble and have been fine. But I also don’t have any expensive bikes and they’re hand painted so it’d take work to make them not incredibly distinctive. Not that any of my buddies who don’t even use the bubble have had issues, either.

      2. Graciosa*

        If the data were stored and saved in the U.S., it would be available to third parties in court proceedings by subpoena in most cases. As an attorney, I can literally write and sign a binding order to anyone in the jurisdiction to turn over records.

        Is the OP resting up at home after the car accident? I can demand these records to determine that. Eating healthy? I can demand the list of items associated with your frequent shoppers card at the local grocery store so I can argue that your diet is impeding your recovery.

        Just to be clear, I don’t practice in this area and would like to think I would only use subpoena power appropriately – but the power itself is very broad. I have no idea whether or not this is true in the U.K. or elsewhere, but there is no reason to let a third party collect and store private information.

        If it’s there, I would assume that sooner or later someone will access it whether you want them to or not.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          The power to subpoena is like the power to sue. You may submit the paperwork but you may not get what you want. The judge gets to decide.

          1. neverjaunty*

            In my state, as in most states, attorneys don’t need court permission to issue a subpoena. If you don’t like being subpoenaed, you can fight it in court (on your own dime, generally), and at that position a judge would intervene, but not before. I don’t know what the requirements are in the UK.

          2. Graciosa*


            In my state, any attorney can write and sign a valid subpoena without either filing a lawsuit or seeking permission from a judge.

    2. MommaTRex*

      I had the impression that the OP didn’t want to die on the hill of opposing ANY tracking of personal vehicles – – in other words even tracking personal vehicles while on company time. But I agree that the issue of tracking anything off hours IS worth making a stand on!

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      I was thinking the opposite – that the plug in one is more expensive OR the fleet dude already got a bulk buy rate on the others and doesn’t want to do the work to go back, get a new quote, approvals, etc.

    4. OP_Here*

      (LW Here)

      Just to clarify, the hill I wasn’t prepared to die on was opposing tracking during business hours. I’ve worked in a similar job before and tracking devices were fitted in their liveried vehicles. They do have an argument for this as they are paying an allowance and reimbursing business mileage and if they handed me the plug and play device and/or the sat nav with the caveat that only mileage logged on it would be reimbursed I would be satisfied as I would still have full control over when the device was active or not.

      Also, my boss (and his boss) is going to have to have one of these devices fitted to their cars as well, so they aren’t super fans either. To be completely fair to the fleet manager, this has come from much further up the org chart and he was just the lucky individual who had to attend regional meetings, give the powerpoint presentation then sit back and receive the inevitable roasting and try and answer the questions. I don’t think we were the first meeting he had chaired .. or the last.

  3. LF*

    Is there a privacy ombudsman in your company? I think that’s something that German companies have. Regardless, I agree with the advice to speak up.

    1. Mike C.*

      First I hear about policies like split time during recessions and labor representatives on boards of directors, now this!?

          1. LF*

            I just googled it and my recollection wasn’t quite right – there is a data privacy officer who is required to make sure that the company’s use of data is in compliance with German law. Germany is super protective of data privacy since data was abused in the Nazi era.

            1. Irishgal*


              Under EU law, personal data can only be gathered legally under strict conditions, for a legitimate purpose and each EU country has enacted this law into their own country’s legal system. It’s common for larger business and/or those who deal with a lot of data processing (utility companies etc) to have a designated DP Officer who’s role it is to co-ordinate responses to data requests and keep the employer on the right side of the law by advising on internal policies and processes. However many SMEs etc would’t have this person (or need one) and often only have a superficial knowledge of the Act (think it applies to customers data only not their own employee)

              For the OPs purposes the employer is likely going to be in breach of the UK DPA 1998 if they insist on collecting this data. As the Act covers collection and storage (by an intermediate 3rd party or directly by the employer) too the argument that “they won’t look” doesn’t pass muster under the definitions of why data can be collected. They would be in breach as the data has no relevance to them for purposes of OP’s work.

              I suggest the OP contact the UK Information Commissioner (the “ombudsman” for the Act in the UK, ico.org.uk) for a statement from them and then “advise” his employer that they may have not considered this legal risk aspect as it sounds like they may not have considered it. Most people are not aware of the DPA on day to day basis unless they work a lot with storing data and processing requests (as I do) so it’s not unusual that the fleet manager would not think to consider this.

              1. OP_Here*

                (LW Here)

                Thanks.. that is useful advice, we have another meeting scheduled shortly so I might get on that and see if I can get some copies of suitably official documentation to refer to. I’m a little confused as my employer does have a legal department so you’d think that they’d have passed anything like this down to them for approval before looking to roll it out.

                All I want is something to hopefully convince them to drop the idea of the fully fitted “always on” system. A plug and play or sat nav style device that had to be used during working hours would be completely acceptable as I would retain ultimate control of when the device is active.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I don’t think you’re going to find a silver bullet argument to use with them. The ones you’ve already presented (or at least presented in your letter) should be compelling. They’re not responding to those, so the next step is for the compelling argument to be “large group of employees are in an uproar over this and it’s causing mass anger that we really have to respond to.”

                2. Irishgal*

                  I’m not! :)

                  I work in an independent autonomous team and we deal with what is legally classed as “sensitive data” which carries even stricter rules. We are constantly having to explain to the legal teams that they can’t have access to x,y or z data as it would be a breach of the Act.

                  Speaking of which, as the appliance could potentially store data that could identify your GP address (even in privacy mode) and other sensitive data the extra rules about sensitive data could apply. The ICO website is fairly user friendly and email requests are usually responded to within a few days (give them the context and as would it be a DPA breach). You might also find this helpful https://worksmart.org.uk/work-rights/discipline-and-policies/data-protection/what-are-my-rights-under-data-protection-act

                  good luck!

  4. Biff*

    In addition to what Allison says about the potential damage to your car or invalidation of your warranty, consider how this is supposed to work if someone is leaving the job? Do you have to pay to have this thing ripped out? How expensive will that be? Can it even be done in a cost-effective fashion? Will they be able to reuse a used unit for a new employee? They aren’t thinking long term.

    1. Analyst*

      If you left the company, would they still pay for your car repairs since they chose to invalidate your warranty while you worked for them?

      1. Analyst*

        Provided you can get them to agree to take responsibility at all for invalidating your warranty while you work there.

    2. OP_Here*

      (LW Here)

      This is the thing I am most incredulous about, there’s practically no benefits to fitting a fully fitted system to a private car,

      The plug and play system has no installation costs, it can be removed when I take my car for servicing or repairs so no questions around the warranty are raised, when I sell my car or leave the company it can easily be removed, if my car is in for repairs and I have to use a courtesy or hire vehicle then I can take it with me to log business mileage, it doesn’t constitute a modification for insurance purposes.

      There are no “pros” I can think of .. at all

      Which is why I am so baffled why they have married themselves to it as all the above makes it a really hard sell.

      1. MsChandandlerBong*

        I come from an area of the U.S. that is known for its county-wide corruption, so maybe I am paranoid, but I’d almost bet someone in your company is related to/friends with whoever sells these tracking units.

        1. RobM*

          I wouldn’t go that far, but I think the person who suggested that the company already has a “bulk buy” rate agreed on the built-in trackers probably might have hit the nail on the head.

      2. TempestuousTeapot*

        This is why I am leaning toward the whole point of this being to get employees to go back to fleet vehicles and end the vehicle stipend. They are going to have that control one way or the other.

    3. RVA Cat*

      It’s kind of like those creepy companies I’ve heard of that are using subdermal microchips instead of access badges – are you going to chop somebody’s arm off if they leave?

      1. Susan*

        Not to sound too doubting, but do you have any references for this (subdermal microchips)? It sounds a little too extreme.

  5. LQ*

    Another piece is even assuming no one at your company ever does anything bad with it intentionally or accidentally, the information can be stolen by someone outside the company. If the data exists it can be misused, abused, or stolen. If the data does not exist it cannot be misused, abused, or stolen.

    All that said, I would absolutely go for a company car if they push hard on this.

    1. VintageLydia*

      This would be my concern. NO ONE wants to pay for hardened security, even on the face of data breach after data breach, both by outside hackers and internal employees. The company can have the purist of intentions but that doesn’t mean all their employees will follow policy (and even if they do at YOUR company, that might not be the case at the tracker company.) And the type of data gathered like when and where people regularly go have a ton of monetary value for marketers so your information will probably be sold eventually, at least in aggregate, with little to no benefit for yourself.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Yep. And law enforcement might be able to obtain large swaths of records. I don’t like it at all.

    3. Trillian*

      Is it possible the data could be subpoena’d if someone were under investigation for criminal activity? There are compelling reasons not to collect data unnecessarily.

      Also, who else will the data be shared with as a matter of course. The manufacturer? Their contractors? Will it be adequately anonymized? Are people being informed just who will have access to their data? Someone who understands the full implications needs to sit down with the decision-makers and counteract the sales talk.

      (We have to get firmer about pushing back against the, If you have nothing to hide … argument with, If you have no use … )

  6. Mike C.*

    If you aren’t up to anything wrong, then there’s no reason to monitor you.

    Your fleet manager can take a long walk off of a short pier if s/he thinks this is an appropriate idea. It’s invasive, it’s disgusting and it’s wrong. I’m willing to bet that you’d have some luck talking with your version of a labor authority as well.

    Best of luck, no one should have to put up with this.

    1. JessaB*

      Also, what if the OP has a particular medical condition, I’m going to use cancer as an example. This condition has a specialist type medical team that one sees. It is not the business of the bosses to know that the OP is for instance having an appointment at an Oncologist. OP has done not one thing wrong, but their medical privacy is involved.

      OP may wish to make an argument to the bosses that there are places people who have never in their lives done anything even slightly shady do not want people to know they have been. Add that to the possibility that someone is seeing a specialist for a condition that has a stigma attached (psychiatric disorders,) and you get into problems. The fact that they have the data and CAN use it, even if right now they are not….etc.

  7. knitcrazybooknut*

    In my experience, you can always tell how insecure someone is feeling by watching how hard they push back on any reasonable questions. This guy is already resorting to calling people wrongdoers if they don’t want to be tracked 24/7. It makes me wonder if he’s getting a kickback for unloading the manufacturer’s unwanted product.

    OP, good luck. I hope you send in an update, and it’s good news.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Or if not a kickback, some kind of volume discount – so if they buy 100 installed trackers for the fleet vehicles and 100 plug-in detachable trackers they don’t get the same deal as if they buy 200 installed trackers which puts them into a volume discount.

        My concern is that if OP pushes too hard on this the company would say “no more personal vehicles and monthly car allowance, fleet vehicles only” – is that an ok outcome for OP? And if so, how much money will she lose since she already bought a car based on the monthly car allowance?

    1. Sunflower*

      I’m totally getting kickback from this too. Frankly I see absolutely no reason why you couldn’t just get the plug and play system- esp bc it’s gotta be way cheaper than the one you install in the car.

    2. HumbleOnion*

      “you can always tell how insecure someone is feeling by watching how hard they push back on any reasonable questions”

      Such a good observation.

    3. OP_Here*

      (LW Here)

      To be fair to the fleet manager this is being pushed down from much further up the org chart than him, as for what input he’s had in the choice and implementation, I don’t know.

      What I am fairly certain of is that it fell to him to attend all of these meetings, give the powerpoint presentation of what’s going to happen, then sit back and get both barrels from the likes of me and my compatriots. I don’t think he was given all of the information himself so he started “ad libbing” when the questions started coming in thick and fast, hence the glib replies. None of it served to quell anyone’s concerns, it just stoked more suspicion.

    4. LD*

      The OP’s later comments indicated that the fleet manager is having to go around to their offices and present on this new “requirement”. He/she is most likely getting an earful of pushback from everyone and is merely frustrated with being the target of their ire. So I’d guess it’s not a kickback to the fleet manager. And if you aren’t trained or prepared to handle an internal communications nightmare, then most people react defensively. That would be my guess for why the fleet manager is reacting with irritation and also in ignorance of privacy laws that apparently exist to address this overreach in data collection. Even the OP sounded a little sympathetic to the fleet manager having to be the one to communicate to groups of resistant employees even if the OP was frustrated by the fleet manager’s responses to legitimate concerns.

  8. Cambridge Comma*

    I think you are completely right about the privacy concerns, but as emphasising that point hasn’t helped you so far, perhaps you will have more luck with the warranty/insurance/removal issue. Why should a business decision on their part lead to increased costs on yours?
    “It would make grey-fleet drivers different from company car drivers” — perhaps it might help to point out that you already are different from company car drivers by virtue of driving your own car. Why would it be illogical for a company to have one policy for their own property and another policy for staff using their own cars?

    1. jhhj*

      Yes. Grey-fleet drivers are different. If you drive a company car, you aren’t allowed to make personal use of it, you don’t actually own the car and pay the maintenance and insurance. So it’s reasonable that there would be different GPS tracking of cars that the company actually owns and cars that the company just reimburses mileage for.

      1. UK HR bod*

        That’s not necessarily correct, especially in the UK. Many company car drivers use their work provided car for personal use (if the terms allow). The only real barrier is for people with commercial vehicles – the tax treatment is less onerous when only used for work purposes.

        1. jhhj*

          True, you need to pay tax on use of a company car for personal driving if it is allowed. (I know in Canada that’s fairly heavily policed now.) I think I was assuming from something earlier in the thread.

    2. hbc*

      That is the craziest thing about it. They’re already different!! That’s why you have different names for them, and different policies concerning them. Think of all the stipend money the company car drivers should have been getting for years given that, you know, they shouldn’t be treated differently.

      Given all the other things he said, I wouldn’t try reasoning with the fleet guy. It sounds like he’s trying to throw any argument out there and see what sticks, which is a big sign that none of the reasons are the real ones, and that he’s not listening. You’ve got to find someone else who might care about the legitimate privacy, liability, or financial issues involved.

    3. Hillary*

      Another point that might help the argument – the plug and play telematics are likely less expensive after the installation costs are dealt with. I’m not familiar with this particular brand, but aftermarket installation of a similar computer for a semis costs $250-$500 at a qualified shop, and that’s with engines that were designed to take the computers. It’s a bit more complicated than just plugging it into a wire harness. I suspect that the fleet manager is looking at the initial equipment costs and underestimating installation and removal expenses if they wrote an ROI.

      You don’t mention if you’ve discussed this with your manager or anyone else in your leadership group (as opposed to the fleet manager). Bringing them your completely reasonable concerns as a group might change the course of events.

    4. Chameleon*

      He may have meant that it makes the *data* from the grey fleet different. Like, maybe they can’t sync the two systems and would have to maintain two databases.

      Actually, I could see that as being a quite good reason they are pushing back on the plug-in version. ( Let me be clear; I don’t think it justifies the massive privacy invasion, but it would make their position more understandable.)

      1. Technical Editor*

        This was my first as well. The company creating the product should make sure the data can ported to both systems, especially if this is a fairly common use case of having 2 types of trackers in one company.

      2. Observer*

        If that’s the problem, then they need to find a different vendor anyway. There is no reason in the universe that they should have to have two systems that are so siloed that the fleet manager would need to use two separate systems to manage the two fleets. That kind of thing generally means really bad design at the back end, and that always comes back to haunt you.

      3. OP_Here*

        (LW Here)

        I checked the vendor’s website (I did this before the initial meeting) and they supply both the fully installed and the plug and play device, from what I could gather they both feed data into the same back end system (which they also supply) in a similar way. The main difference appears to be how it physically attaches to the car. The fully fitted device needs patching into the CAN-Bus (like a network in your car that lets all of it’s modules talk to each other) and the power, the plug and play attaches to the diagnostic plug (which from what I can gather is on the CAN-Bus and supplies power).

        There’s only two conclusions I can draw really, they either really really want to know what I do on a weekend (unlikely) or they have got a bulk discount on the fully fitted devices (very very likely)

  9. Dragonfly*

    “If you aren’t up to anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about”

    The East German judge is nodding.

    1. Adam*

      Just love the pigeon-hole phrases. /sarcasm

      One of my favorites: “Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.”

      Yeah, no. My conscience may be clear that doesn’t give you the right to rummage through my stuff and see what you please.

    2. BRR*

      I take showers. I’m not doing anything wrong but I don’t want somebody observing me doing it. Or even worse…the gym.

    3. Marzipan*

      Anyone ever expressing that sort of ‘nothing to fear, nothing to hide’ sentiment to me can expect an immediate challenge to go home and burn all their curtains. Followed by their clothes.

  10. Adam*

    I’m always paranoid that pushing back could jeopardize my job (which is mostly in my own head) so I’m VERY agreeable at work most of the time.

    I would push back on this. Absolutely nothing about the employee-employer relationship validates this kind of boundary crossing.

    1. OP_HERE*

      (LW Here)

      It’s not that anyone’s afraid of pushing back and voicing their concerns, unless you crossed the line into what would be considered misconduct then they wouldn’t have grounds for dismissal or even disciplinary action (for better or worse it’s a lot harder to fire people in the UK than it is in the US).

      How it’s going to work in this case is that they’ll make the telematics device a condition of the car allowance, no box no cash effectively.

  11. Juli G.*

    I… think it’s time to start the job hunt. Yes, escalate it but it sounds like the company has decided that they will die on this hill right there with you. (My only caveat is that I don’t know UK law but in the US, they could definitely end your employment if you refuse to comply).

    No, you haven’t lost perspective. Yes, you’re right. But you need to be prepared that there’s a chance no one at your company will care.

    I’m sorry.

    1. UK HR bod*

      Highly unlikely – you can only dismiss for one of five fair reasons, and this wouldn’t, on it’s own, be one of them. They could potentially however remove the car allowance, although if this is a contractual term they’d have to consult and potentially buy out. They could of course just fire her, but it would almost certainly be unfair. There is an option to fire and re-engage on new terms, but without substantive reason (and this probably wouldn’t qualify), the OP would win in a tribunal.

      1. OP_Here*

        (LW Here)

        Yep, right on the nose. Nobody’s being threatened with dismissal over this even in the midst of quite vocal pushback.

        Refusal to have the device fitted would result in withdrawal of the car allowance. In one sense I wouldn’t be any better off in a company car as it would still have exactly the same device fitted, the difference being that it’s their car and not mine.

  12. embertine*

    I have this exact issue. I did consent as it was part of my contract and is fairly common in my industry, but the privacy button should not be installed on private vehicles, because unlike the tracker itself it does permanent damage to the car as it requires holes to be drilled into your dashboard.

    By the way, if it’s the same company as our one, the tracker drained my battery overnight and the company took two weeks to fail to fix it. I had to get a garage to fix my car and in the meantime my company paid for a hire car. I am very unhappy about having to do this (not least because of the execrable customer service I received when they killed my car), and when I buy a new vehicle next year sometime I will be strongly questioning the need for it.

    1. my two cents*

      Yeah, there’s a whole lot of hurt that comes with after-market gadgets that tap into the battery of the car. remote starts, interlock devices, and the like all typically invalidate warranties and very often end up draining the car battery. there’s even reports of those trackers from progressive screwing up car-puters.

      1. manybellsdown*

        Oh yeah, I owned a car once where someone had (poorly) installed after-market fog lamps. They’d kill my battery – but only when I went above ~3000 feet of altitude.

    2. OP_Here*


      It’s not uncommon in my industry for trackers either (I lived with them at a previous employer) and there’s been talk of this very thing happening for at least the last eight years.

      I have heard horror stories like yours from people I know doing the same or similar roles as me (but for other companies and competitors), I’ve heard about no starts in the morning due to dead batteries, I’ve heard about them frying ECU’s leading to very expensive (in the thousands of pounds range) repairs, problems with either getting the tracker company to take responsibility and problems with dealing with car manufacturer dealerships (where even if you get an unrelated fault, say on the gearbox, they refuse to do it under warranty as you’ve had this device fitted)

      Yeah, so not really looking forward to it..

  13. Short and Stout*

    I don’t think your employer could justify collecting data about your driving ALL the time under UK data protection laws (https://www.gov.uk/data-protection), as Alison says they are being unreasonable.

    You could all have all sorts of fun putting in requests to see all of the data collected on you, as is your right … But I hope they see sense and don’t implement it.

    1. Marzipan*

      Yeah, I was thinking the same. I would be contacting whoever within the organisation is responsible for data protection, and pointing out that this data – even without location being recorded – seems not to be for a specified legal purpose, that it is excessive and not relevant to collect it, and that you don’t consent to it being held.

    2. Awkially Socward*

      My take on this is that, as the fleet manager has admitted that the company wouldn’t actually be doing anything with the out-of-hours information, the fleet manager has essentially admitted that the company has no justifiable reason to record out-of-hours information.

      The “if you’ve nothing to hide” and “we won’t abuse it, honest!” arguements are utterly irrelevant as they do not appear to be the legal standard.

  14. Merry and Bright*

    This is truly horrifying! I’m in the UK and have never heard of this being compulsory by employers for private vehicles after hours. It also gets my hackles up when people say “But if you’re doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry to worry about” because actually there is everything to worry about. As Alison said, this is not a police state. You are a free citizen, not an electronically tagged criminal on parole. Tracking employees is not a condition of employment especially on their own time. Yet they are denying you the plug and play option offered by the supplier! If pushing back doesn’t work, make an appointment with a solicitor at a firm with an employment department. You can share costs of course if there are a number of you affected and you can find out exactly where you stand legally. Your employers may not be interested in your after work journeys but they are not their business anyway. Grrr!

    Good luck.

    1. OP_Here*

      (LW Here)

      I don’t think it’s compulsory per se, some of the precursors behind this were due to compliance with duty of care to lone workers, there may also be something around if you have an accident whilst driving on business then your employer is part liable (disclaimer:- I may have just fished that one right out of my backside so feel free to ignore if Google doesn’t concur).

      The thing that really kicked it into gear was the recent European Court ruling that time spent driving from home to clients (for non normally office based staff) and back again is counted as working time and not commuting (as it always had been previously since, well the last decade and a half I’ve been doing this kind of work). Unless you’ve opted out of the European Working Time Directive you should work no more than a 48 hour week averaged over 17 weeks (again, may not be quoting it verbatim but it’s along those lines). So again it’s a compliance issue, using the trackers to log hours spent on the road.

      Now the question is what came first, did they always plan on installing the trackers and the EWTD ruling is basically the argument that closed the deal, or in order to be compliant, did they then have to look to GPS trackers to get the data to prove compliance?

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Oh, interesting – in my UK civil service days (yikes, I left about 8 years ago) it was always the rule that travelling time = working time. If you started from home, you subtracted your usual commute time (eg your 15 min drive) but the office was right by the station, so for me it was always from when I left to when I returned, and there was never any question of tracking it. We recorded hours on our timesheets, which could be randomly audited at any time, and asked for evidence (eg train tickets, what time the meeting started & ended etc) with the understanding that as with all flexitime/expenses, if you were caught lying it was a disciplinary, & second strike sack.

        I can’t imagine GPS trackers are necessary for compliance in some legal sense, because that implies everyone is only driving for work. How would this work in cities like London where public transport is the norm? Or in industries where public transport is encouraged (eg for environmental issues, and/or so you can work on trains and make the journey more efficient) Or in my city, where I used to walk to a ton of meetings that could finish out of office hours, and then come back to the office etc?

        1. OP_Here*

          This is an article about to the recent European Court of Justice ruling I was referring to:-


          It refers to mobile workers (of which I am one) who do not have a fixed office but generally drive straight from home to clients.

          I cannot even begin to describe how much this has upset the apple cart, the area I potentially cover is huge and leaving home at 5:30am to arrive at a customer’s premises for 8:30am, working there (and other customer’s sites in that general area) until 5pm and only getting home at 19:30 – 20:00 was far from unheard of. All of this for 7 and a half hours pay as all travelling time was on you.

          What I just described was an extreme example, but as a large portion of my customer base is in a large, heavily congested city so upwards of 90 minute commutes aren’t uncommon.

          All of this now has to be paid time, this is going to require a complete reconfiguration of how my employer does business. This is why I am not particularly opposed to tracking during business hours as most of the time the data will play to my favour, I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m not going anywhere I’m not supposed to be. At the moment there is an assumption that people are running errands or taking long breaks between client visits which is adversely affecting productivity. The reverse is true, nobody I know would dare take their full lunch break as it would bring your numbers down, long travel times are usually due to distance or heavy traffic. Once business travel is tracked, the hard data is in front of them, they can’t accuse anyone of anything because now they have the complete picture. The grab and go lunch breaks will abruptly end as they don’t have the luxury of assumptions based on ignorance. I believe the phrase to be “hoisted by their own petard”.

          1. OP_Here*

            Scratch what I said about it having to be PAID time, that was wishful thinking on my part. I’ve read into a bit more.

            It has to be considered working time for the purposes of determining total hours worked for compliance with the European Working Time Directive (no more than 48 hours per week on average with a minimum of 11 hours rest period between shifts)

            The main difference is, previous to this ruling, travelling at the start and finish of the working day was considered part of the rest period, therefore, I can no longer arrive home and “finish work” at 8pm and hit the road again and “start work” at 5:30am as this would only constitute a 9 and a half hour rest period between the intervening working periods.

            Also for working time regulations leaving home at 5:30am and getting home at 19:30 would be considered 14 hours of working time rather than seven and a half, so having to do a full week of this (which absolutely kicks your arse, you are good for nothing come Saturday) would be in breach of the 48 hour maximum working week (although this is averaged over a 17 week period so you may have to do this occasionally and get a few bonus hours/days off to compensate and bring the numbers back in line).

            1. Jack the treacle eater*

              For all this discussion about European law, I don’t believe there’s anything in law that compels anything like the level of monitoring that a tracker would give.

              It seems to me, as I’m sure the OP realises, that this is mission creep, and I’ve seen similar things happen even in quite small companies, let alone large beaurocratic ones. A law is brought in, someone in the company says ‘we need to ensure compliance / protect our employees / fulfil our duty of care / cover our backsides’, discussions and meetings are held, the situation progressively gets more complex, and the result is total overkill in terms of addressing the original problem or ensuring compliance.

              Unfortunately the chances of getting to the original decision maker and getting them to go back on a decision that is by now fairly entrenched are probably next to nil.

              I can see why the hardwired system has been suggested – someone will have raised a concern that a plug and play system could be unplugged if the driver was running out of hours / up to no good.

              I’m surprised it’s to do with working time though – if there was a concern about your 48 hours, they could simply ask you to opt out of the working time directive.

  15. EJ*

    The GPS better only be active during business hours!!

    Imagine this being installed in your car and you call out of work for a “sick day” and they see you are somewhere like the mall, beach, another competitive business (ie. job interview)… basically somewhere that isn’t the doctors or home… and they use it against you because they have the information and can look at it to see if you are lying. “/

    1. Biff*

      Or god forbid, you lend your personal car to someone and they go somewhere the company views as ‘shady.’

    2. OP_Here*

      (LW Here)

      From what I understand, the privacy button hides the locations you visit, but still logs overall mileage. So your boss would know somebody had been out in the car that day if you’d called in sick.

      What is unclear is whether it just hides it from your immediate management, is there a “super user” login for the big bosses or HR that shows everything? It’s the kind of thing you’d only find out when you are sitting in a disciplinary hearing and a printout of it gets thrust in front of you.

      The data is being collected, it exists, and the company who supplies the equipment at least will have access to the full unfiltered data. Can they be trusted with the data? If I patronise a certain brand of supermarket, will I start getting a flood of junk mail and/or sales calls from said supermarket or their competitors?

      Paranoid? Maybe, but if I can unplug the thing when I’m off the clock then I have that control.

  16. Hannah*

    If they insist on this new policy where any car being driven for their company must have the hardwired, non removable version of the device, then all cars being driven for their company need to live at the company and be used only for company driving. It’s not acceptable for a device like that to be used on someone’s personal car. Either you should be grandfathered in and allowed to use the temp device in your own car, or the program to drive your own car and get an allowance should be ended now. I don’t think allowing them to install the permanent device in your personal car should even be an option considered.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I agree, though this will hit people hard who bought a car and are making the payments on the monthly stipend – depreciation being what it is, reselling the car for the remaining amount owed may be tricky. If they don’t otherwise need the car, continuing the payments would be an out-of-pocket fee now for…previously having used the car for the company.

      1. Shell*

        If the program to drive your own car must be ended, I’d argue that the company should buy out the OP for the car since they’re the ones who need the cars for company business.

        But that’d probably never happen.

    2. the_scientist*

      This, 100%. Someone has not thought this through carefully at all. Of course there is a difference between company cars and grey-fleet drivers. The seemingly flimsy justifications for why this particular device is absolutely necessary (when there’s a cheaper and less-invasive option available) makes me suspect that there’s an ulterior motive in play here. I’m not normally one to suspect malice about behaviours better described by ignorance, but this is super fishy.

      1. OP_Here*

        (LW Here)

        I am now 95% convinced reading the comments here that this is down to them getting a bulk discount on the fully fitted devices, the amount of vehicles involved (commercial, company owned and private) is to the point where the discount per device would be huge.

        Sometimes in situations like this (where the system itself has a monthly or quarterly subscription fee per vehicle) the supplier will sell it at cost just to get the units out there.

        In my mind though, it’d make far more sense to bulk buy the plug and play system..

        It’s not outside the realms of possibility that they do have an unhealthy interest in people’s activities outside work, but it’s unlikely. It’s been very politically difficult for them thus far to justify what they are doing and once the system goes in, people are going to be very vigilant of any perceived abuse of it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Somebody’s cousin or brother-in-law works at the other company. I can almost see it now.

          So, OP, how is the other company doing? Are you able to find their financial sheets online? How would a big sale like this help them right now? What about that particular model, is it doing well on the open market or are sales off a bit? Probably you don’t have tons of spare time for this stuff, but taking a look around at these things could be an eye opening experience. Maybe a coworker would look at these things, too, and you can put your heads together on it.

          1. babblemouth*

            Plus, if they’re doing nothing wrong, they’ve got nothing to hide, so they should have no problem handing you over all of their data.

  17. Meg*

    I find it ironic that this is okay from a regulatory privacy perspective in Europe given that European privacy law are much stricter than US privacy laws. I can’t imagine most US employees being okay with this on their privately owned car. Even if you aren’t doing anything wrong from a company perspective, you have the right to do things that may be “wrong” from a personal perspective where you don’t want your location constantly tracked. For example, you decide you want to have an affair. Your employer has no right to know or care about your affair as it has no impact on your work. If you were to get a divorce, the data could be sought by your divorcing spouse who could use it to prove your affair. Or, as was noted above, the data could get stolen and hackers could know all of your car’s whereabouts – OP lives at 123 XYZ Street in Paris, France, but her car is at 234 ZYX Street in Nice. Time to go rob OP.

    1. Decimus*

      I’m actually wondering if the fleet vehicle manager ran this by Legal at all. It’s possible he just decided on this and didn’t see anything wrong with it, not being up on UK/European Union privacy regulations.

      1. Meg*

        I suspect you right. This kind of thing seems like it must violate UK/EU privacy regulations, but I know that in some instances employees can waive the privacy regulations.

  18. Navy Vet*

    Good grief this whole thing gives me the heebie jeebies.
    Lets start with the fact that you would be invalidating your warranty and possibly insurance. I assume the company requires you to be insured while using the car for company business.

    The privacy violations are insane here. And my concern would be my own personal safety. There is no reason for anyone at work to know where you live. This is my biggest concern. I do not like people knowing where I live. Who has access to this data? is it the fleet manager? Who sounds like an upstanding gentleman for the record. Anyone else? For me its a huge safety concern. If I were to go somewhere, like a bar in my off time, would someone be able to see my current location and just show up?

    OK…deep breath…

    This is insane to me, and extremely suspect…my spidey sense is tingling. Something is very off about the whole thing to me.

  19. AnotherFed*

    Personally, I wouldn’t want this device in my personal car. However, it sounds like it’s not entirely the OP’s car – OP took money from the company for the car (on top of the standard mileage/wear and tear reimbursement), so the company certainly has a stake in the car. The OP probably should verify whether anything about modifications was in the initial agreement – I can’t imagine any company forking over money for a vehicle *without* attaching strings!

    1. Bend & Snap*

      My ex had a car allowance for his job. There were no strings other than carrying commercial insurance.

      Even if a company subsidizes a purchase, it’s still a private transaction and the company has no ownership or liability.

    2. Jinx*

      That wasn’t my read of the letter – it sounds like OP’s employer offers the options of using a company car or using a personal car and receiving mileage reimbursement, and OP bought the car to take the second option. Maybe I’m not understanding how car allowance works, but I don’t think it’s the same thing as the company buying her car.

      1. Elsajeni*

        The OP mentions a “monthly car allowance” in addition to mileage reimbursement, so I think there’s a stipend involved as well — I’ve heard of this where the company wants all their employees driving fairly nice cars for work, so the stipend is to cover them buying a more expensive car than they otherwise would.

        1. Tau*

          We get this, and I’d be highly surprised if that was the reason! I think the logic for my job is that it involves a lot of business travel which the company reimburses, but is low-paid enough that people might not be able to afford a car on the salary alone – so it works out cheaper for the company to subsidise car owners and reimburse their mileage than to pay for everyone’s train tickets.

          …or they just hate people without driving licenses or something.

        2. Jinx*

          Hmm, that does blur the line a little bit. But even if that’s the case, isn’t it still the OP’s personal car at that point? If she quits the job or is fired, the stipend stops but I doubt the employer gets the car.

          In my mind it sounds like someone saying that because I work from home at my apartment and use my compensation to pay rent, my employer “has a stake” in my home. They don’t, they just provide the wages that contribute to it.

    3. OP_Here*

      (LW Here)

      In my contract (I know in the US it’s At Will employment which is a completely different kettle of fish) it states that I am either entitled to a company car chosen from an approved list commensurate with my pay grade, this is fully expensed (insurance, servicing, tyres) but comes with a tax liability (not going too deep into it but basically there’s a formula based on it’s list price and emissions level where you have to pay HMRC for a “benefit in kind” of having private use of it). The car always remains the property of the company (or in some cases the leasing company they hire it from) and you have to give it back when you leave, or even just if they request you return it.


      I can take a monthly car allowance, this is a fixed amount per month based on pay grade for business use of a private vehicle. They get to specify certain conditions the vehicle has to meet before approving the allowance (previous to this was limited to age, emissions and suitability for job role but now I think this is the angle they are taking, no box, no allowance) but the vehicle belongs to me 100%, I have the invoice from the dealership and registration documents which would prove ownership in court, I am responsible for taxing, insuring, servicing and repairing the vehicle and if it is off the road it would be my responsibility to hire a car myself to carry on working. If I quit tomorrow the car would belong to me and they would have no claim whatsoever on it. There is nothing in my contract that even implies that the payment of the allowance confers any portion of ownership to my employer.

    4. Tinker*

      I can easily imagine a company forking over money for a vehicle without attaching strings. My current employer has forked over money for a house, ongoing maintenance on a car, a bicycle, a pair of memory wire eyeglasses, a polycarbonate ukulele, a chainmail shirt, and a somewhat disturbing amount of cabbage without having or attempting to claim ownership of any of these things. The only reason why I haven’t taken money from the company and spent it on a car is because I happen to have not bought one since I’ve started working for them — and if I did do so, they’d have no more stake in it than they have in the cabbage. Although they are welcome to try the cabbage if they want. It is tasty and probably not laden with botulism.

      This, of course, is nothing more than my company paying me in accordance with my compensation package, and my spending said money in accordance with my bizarre whims.

      The OP’s situation, though it has some superficially confusing elements, is no different — much like the vision plan involved in paying for the eyeglasses noted above, part of the OP’s compensation comes in a more complicated form than straight cash, but even that does not make the things the OP buys with said compensation company property. Though I’m sure there are folks out there who think along those lines, and perhaps confusion on this point is what is causing the OP’s problem.

      1. liz*

        “…a polycarbonate ukulele, a chainmail shirt, and a somewhat disturbing amount of cabbage…”

        I have so many questions.

    5. ReanaZ*

      It’s less “forking over money without strings” and more that a car is required for your position, so the company supplies a car for you (in Australia, this is called salary packaging or a novated lease–if you work for a NFP like I do, there are no tax implications to this, I don’t think), fully insured, petrol paid for, etc. But since not everyone wants or can practically use a company car (if have already have a car, limited parking options in their apartment building, need a larger family vehicle, etc.), they offer the option of taking a cash transportation stipend *instead* of the company car benefit. (But in return, I’m never allowed to submit reimbursements for mileage, transit, etc. if I have to work off site, which is frequently–all my travel costs are my own, although I can deduct them from my taxes.)

      But there are no strings attached to this at all. It’s just paid as part of my normal salary, with the conditions about not getting other travel reimbursements in my contract. I actually bought a motorcycle for 1/10 the cost of the one year of the stipend, which I run (insurance, rego, petrol) for about $45 a month. Then I just pocket the other $10K a year. (My company knows this, and it’s all fine. If I had a job where I had to carry a lot of equipment, they’d expect me to get a car, but I don’t and I don’t want to own a car in a city this miserable to drive in anyway.)

  20. Gene*

    I don’t know about England, but in the US the manufacturer must prove that an aftermarket part caused the damage before they can refuse to honor the warranty. This is part of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. As someone who has modified every car I’ve owned, this Act has been a boon; the act states that a dealer must prove that aftermarket equipment caused the need for repairs before it can deny warranty coverage.

    I would probably die on this hill. Failing that, I would fit an aluminum foil cover to its antenna when I’m off the clock.

    1. LQ*

      The problem with faraday caging it is that it is likely designed to work in places where it is out of range of signals. It may be tracking in a physical way, or it may track and not report back until it is back in range (uncaged).

      I don’t know a lot about these devices, but I’d very much look into that before I was confident that it would be a solution.

  21. Construction Safety*

    I might consider waiting for the Fleet Manager to go out of town, then parking my car in front of his house for the night.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      “I have no problem with you knowing my movements — it’s just work, home and your mum’s house.”

      1. Jamie*

        I keep picturing Breaking Bad when Gus was like “Go ahead. Install it” and then Hank being disappointed when he saw the results.

  22. Washington*

    I just asked the privacy officer at my company’s near-London office. His official response was, “no way; that’s a set up for me to have to testify before an employment tribunal AND the about violations of EU privacy. Plus, the company would end up pay so much in fines, I’d get it in the xxxx.”

    1. Decimus*

      Hah! As I posted above, I wonder if the fleet manager didn’t bother to check with Legal. OP might want to do that, just pointing out that it does raise serious issues for the company. Both privacy laws and the vicarious liability issues.

    2. OP_HERE*

      (LW Here)

      I work for a large enough company for it to have it’s own dedicated legal department so I have to assume everything has been rubber stamped by them before it got to this stage.

      One thing is for certain, it’s so universally unpopular that people are going to be hyper vigilant of any abuse (real or even perceived) So if anyone with backend access does misuse the system then it would be extremely difficult for them to justify it’s continued use.

      Honestly, I think they’ve made a rod for their own backs. The plug and play system gives back that control, all the company had to do to ensure compliance is to state that it will not reimburse any mileage not recorded on the device (if anyone doesn’t comply, the company saves money on fuel, so they never lose)

      1. PX*

        I work for a large enough company for it to have it’s own dedicated legal department so I have to assume everything has been rubber stamped by them before it got to this stage.

        I dont know if I would assume that honestly! I also work for a large company with large legal and compliance departments, and its perfectly possible for them not to have been considered early enough in the process. Or as someone else said, not considered the specific angle of the privacy concerns.

  23. Jamie*

    I’m in the financial industry and we can install an app on our phones that “securely” syncs calendars and e-mails. It’s optional, thank god. The people who really really wanted it for the convenience factor actually bought separate phones purely for work purposes. Even our IT guy, who I’m personal friends with, advised me not to install it. He told me “They say they won’t look at anything else on your phone, but they can if they really want to, and that should be enough to convince you to never install it”.

    1. Jinx*

      We can’t get work email on our personal phones unless we install that kind of software, and I don’t know anyone who’s opted for it. The software also lets the company wipe the phone remotely.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        OMG the wiping. This is why I would NEVER use my personal phone as my work phone or my personal laptop. We’re not allowed to do work on our own laptops anyway, but I wouldn’t for any other job either. The only time I’ve ever used my cell is when I’m working from home and need to call someone at work (I don’t have a landline) and can’t use my email or call them on IM. Which is extremely rare.

      2. Noah*

        We have some version of this, but it sticks your work stuff in a separate container and only wipes that. So they can pull your work email, contacts, calendar, and apps off the phone but not your personal stuff. Our tablets work the same way.

      3. Chris*

        My uni used Outlook, and when I went to install the app, I noticed the wiping clause. And I noped right on out of there. I just redirected it to Gmail, and got on a browser when I needed to send

      4. Claire*

        My employer has the same setup, and almost everyone with whom I work has opted for it. I actually found it a great relief when I finally got access, because it meant I could comfortably take a longer lunch break and know nothing had come up, or check what was coming up for the day while commuting.

  24. Telematics*

    Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but systems like the one described by the OP are increasingly common in cars, both mounted in the car during manufacturing or as aftermarket solutions.

    You are fighting against the tide on this one.

    100% of new cars sold in Europe from 2018 will have a black box. New cars shipping in Russia today also have this capability. It will be running different software (emergency call after a crash), but has all of the same capability as the fleet trackers, including potential for location monitoring.


    Signed – someone who works in this industry.

    1. Mike C.*

      Having a black box that is only used in criminal and insurance matters is much, much different than my employer having that information.

    2. Kyrielle*

      What Mike C said, and also, having it come already installed is different than installing it after-market and possibly voiding your warranty and/or negating your insurance.

    3. Marcela*

      The problem is not the capability, but who has the data from those boxes. OP can look like she’s fighting against the tide now, but I am sure in the future we will see a push back against such an invasive record of our lives, so I’d say OP is actually ahead of her time

  25. Chameleon*

    What about employees who do have something to hide–or at least have things they’d rather not share with coworkers because it’s not their business?

    I’m just picturing sudden firing or retaliation after someone goes to a nude beach, or a BDSM club, or a UKIP rally, or a fundamentalist mosque. So many ways that data could be misused.

    1. Katieinthemountains*

      That’s what I was thinking – I live in a conservative area, and some employers would make things uncomfortable if not untenable for employees who go to strip clubs, gay bars, mosques or synagogues instead of Protestant churches, etc. And think of the medical information your car could divulge – I would have been very unhappy if my company had seen the sudden uptick in ob gyn visits before I was ready to announce a pregnancy, to say nothing of unmarried teachers at Catholic schools who’ve been fired for getting pregnant.

    2. OP_HERE*

      (LW Here)

      My personal life is pretty pedestrian to be honest, so it may be the reverse where somebody’s logging in hoping to see something blackmail worthy and just seeing endless trips to drop the kids off at school and grocery shopping.

      Will I see the following email when I log on on Monday morning:-

      Hi x

      It has come to our attention (though definitely not via the GPS gizmo in your car that we definitely don’t log into when we’re bored) that your weekend activities are disappointingly devoid of any antics that we deem gossip worthy.

      This is unacceptable, given the considerable financial cost and political capital we have expended foisting these spyboxe….erm.. Telematics safety devices onto you, you could at least make an effort to be a little more interesting when we are snoop…. erm checking on your welfare.

      We expect to see an improvement on this matter immediately.


    3. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, it does not even have to be that. It could be that Parent is dying in a hospital and the employee does not wish to talk about it at work at all. Then comes, “why are you parked at the hospital every night?”

      Suppose someone has lost a loved one and one of their coping tools is to go to the cemetery every Friday after work to talk over the week. That is no one’s dang business, but the grieving person.

      Just because someone keeps something private that does not mean they are doing something wrong.

      1. OP_Here*

        I doubt that even if someone was watching, they would dare try that angle.

        If somebody ever did get reprimanded for or even just called into the office to explain why they were parked at a hospital every night it would blow up on them spectacularly. It would show every single business case made, justifications and assurances given to have been worthless.

        If this ever happened, the manager/HR person who pulled this would get fired, guaranteed!

  26. Cari*

    ““If you aren’t up to anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about” is offensive in its lack of appreciation for why someone might care about privacy, regardless of what they are or aren’t doing. It’s an attempt to shame people into backing off of important privacy concerns by implying that only wrongdoers should have those concerns, and it has a long and horrid history of being used to justify invasive surveillance. It also ignores the world’s very long history of misusing personal information to harm people who didn’t actually do anything wrong.” – AAM

    Nailed it! The “nothing to fear if nothing to hide” argument really gets to me and I can never articulate why. But this says it all :)

  27. Telematics*

    Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but systems like the one described by the OP are increasingly common in cars, both mounted in the car during manufacturing or as aftermarket solutions. Privacy concerns are fair, but these systems are coming.

    You are fighting against the tide on this one.

    100% of new cars sold in Europe from 2018 will have a black box. New cars shipping in Russia today also have this capability. It will be running different software (emergency call after a crash), but has all of the same capability as the fleet trackers, including potential for location monitoring.

    Look up European ecall regulations, also pay as you drive insurance or usage based insurance.

    Signed – someone who works in this industry.

    1. Violetta*

      I didn’t know about that – that’s unsettling. However, I don’t think it invalidates the advice in this post. You could still avoid this by not buying a car, buying an older car, etc – it’s not like the OP’s case where this situation is being imposed by their employer.

    2. Observer*

      Sorry, you are flat out incorrect here – and in fact the tide is going the other way. The “black boxes” are actually quite controversial, because of the potential for misuse. But the way it stands, those boxes are not designed to transmit information to anyone – they are designed to be read in the event of a crash or similar accident.

  28. Brett*

    From an academic perspective, this is a concept known as geoslavery.
    The seminal article on this was written back in _2003_ by Dobson and Fisher.
    Dawn Wright, Chief Scientist of Esri (for those familiar with the geospatial industry), ran an amazing virtual seminar on GIS Ethics for the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science back in 2005.
    The entire 4th week of the seminar was about geoslavery (and Jerry Dobson himself led it.)

    These has even been a simmering debate in the geospatial community about whether or not providing technical support for geoslavery violates the formal code of ethics for professional certification. Understanding the ethical perception of geoslavery might help some with pushing back against this plan.

  29. Anonfornow*

    I worked for a well established UK Fleet Management Telematics company for several years and in our firm, if we took a cash allowance instead of a fleet vehicle, the Terms and Conditions were clearly outlined in our agreement that our vehicle may have a tracking device installed. The allowance was given as the vehicle was needed for business travel and the vehicle insurance was paid for by our firm. Different firms may have different conditions around their allowances but I always considered my vehicle a company vehicle/perk and not my own vehicle as I wasn’t paying for it. My understanding was that legally, a company is within its rights to fit a tracker to a vehicle allowing personal travel as long as there is a Privacy button fitted.

    I fully appreciate and understand privacy concerns, as a lone worker who did a lot of travel (which was why I had the allowance or car option), I took comfort from having a tracker and the benefits for me far outweighed the risks. Our system had many features for lone workers and I felt quite secure using it. My Manager/HR etc already had access to my home address, personal details etc and the tracker gave no more of that detail than the HR database. I totally trusted my Management and maybe innocently, had no concerns. And our system wouldn’t be interrupted by tin foil. We did see that.

    As an aside, the UK company that I worked for before I moved to the telematics company (which was also a well known and respected name) sold all of their old computer equipment years after I had left there; I got a phone call from the Data Protection Registrar’s Office telling me that my HR file was still on a PC which had been sold on. You just never know what’s out there anywhere.

    1. Chris*

      That’s a plot point from Crichton’s “Lost World”… a bunch of old InGen computers still have data on them, as they just had their index wiped

    2. Collarbone High*

      This is a huge problem with modern copiers — any machine that can email or fax a copy or scan has a hard drive, and a lot of companies don’t think about that and don’t think to wipe it before they sell or throw out the copier. A few years ago there was an audit at an electronics recycling facility that found all kinds of medical records, tax documents, legal paperwork on un-wiped hard drives.

    3. OP_Here*

      I have no issue with tracking during business hours for whatever reasons my employer wants to state, during business hours they are paying my salary, paying an allowance for my vehicle and reimbursing my fuel. They have given several justifications for this (health and safety, working time regs, duty of care, accuracy of mileage returns) but none are really needed, if it’s on their time, they have the right in my opinion and I don’t oppose it.

      But my time is my time, even if I was still in a fully expensed company vehicle I wouldn’t be comfortable knowing that the tracker was still logging away. I feel I would have less right to push back as ultimately it is their vehicle not mine.

      The telematics vendor supplies a plug and play option that seems tailor made for the owner driver vehicle allowance situation so I was confused as to why they seem to want to go down the path of most resistance.

      In fact, as you have experience in the industry and are more familiar with the workings of these devices than the average layman you may be able to shine some light on a few things (I know the device in question probably isn’t the exact device your company supplied, but if you can answer in general terms I’d be grateful):-

      1/ As my company is going to be purchasing a significant amount of devices, would a bulk discount come into play? This would at least give some explanation as to why the plug and play option has been refused.

      2/ How private is “privacy mode” usually? I understand it’ll hide locations visited from my Boss’s login, but is there usually a higher level login that shows everything unfiltered? If the device is on and active then it is collecting the data and feeding it back into the system back end so it exists in some form somewhere. I know I don’t get a login so I can’t go in myself and see.

      3/ How are they wired in usually? I understand they need power and access to the CAN bus to pickup data from the ECU. The thing that makes me very nervous is the CAN bus patching, as done incorrectly it can damage the ECU and that is very very bad news and potentially a serious hole in my wallet that nobody else seems particularly keen on accepting liability for.

  30. AnotherSalesperson*

    Not quite the same situation, but similar – and i found a loophole.

    My company wanted to put these in our cars (I have a car allowance). We were given the type that plugs into the diagnostic port and then syncs to your smart phone. I have a blackberry and the device isn’t compatible with the blackberry. So sad. Well, I um…love? my blackberry and didn’t want to give that up, so they made an exemption for me. I think mostly because it saved them money to not buy me a new phone. I actually do have an android phone, but it’s my personal cell and I don’t mix the two.

    I think Alison’s advice is good – but I didn’t have the guts to do that (my industry has huge layoffs right now). I was glad I found the hardware/software incompatibility issue that I could lean on.

  31. Nancie*

    Sounds to me like the fleet manager thinks he’s found a way to ‘force’ everyone to resort to using company cars.

  32. UK HR bod*

    These systems are becoming more common – my organisation is bringing it in, but, and it’s a big but, only for people who drive commercial vehicles. There are two reasons: commercially, it enables us to schedule jobs more efficiently, and secondly, these are engineers who often work alone, sometimes in remote places, so it gives an additionl element of lone worker support. However, the difference between this and the OP is that these are commercial vehicles, and as such not permitted for tax reasons to be used for personal use. Staff in most UK companies who have cars / car allowances can use them for personal use, which accounts for the tax difference – it’s a benefit as you can use it yourself. Some companies also charge a contribution for personal use. Tracking these cars outside work, whether company provided or personally bought, would be a real issue.

    The car / allowance thing is a red herring here, as the issue is personal use. Tracking on work time is OK, tracking outside is not. As someone mentioned upstream, it is likely to fall foul of most UK/EU privacy laws – I’d also chuck the Human Rights Act article 8 at your fleet manager. It wouldn’t work in court, but they probably won’t know that. Given the comments already made about data security, you should definitely push back: it’s a legitimate workplace concern, and given the potential legal risks faced by your company, your pushback could potentially be considered a protected disclosure, which gives you protection above and beyond the usual dismissal protection (if you go that route though, ask a specialist – it’s complicated). First though, talk to your manager, or if that doesn’t work, try your HR department or risk / data specialists.

    1. OP_Here*

      (LW Here)

      One of my previous employers had tracking devices fitted to their liveried commercial vehicles and I used to drive them on a regular basis, there was no privacy switch as they were never used for anything other than business use, they lived at the depot and I went home in my own (untrackered) car.

      It was made abundantly clear that they were fitted (there was a great big sign on the passenger side dash) to keep that in mind regarding the manner of your driving (in reality they only looked when customers disputed the time you arrived at their premises, or if somebody rang the “How Am I Driving? Phone 0800 xxxxxxx” number on the back of the van to complain about somebody, but the data that was generated was phenomenal, it logs virtually everything you can think of, or at least this system did and this was around 2003/2004, I dread to think what newer systems can do)

      But it’s definitely one thing for it to be in THEIR vehicle that you get to leave at work.

  33. Former Retail Manager*

    Just wanted to present the possible employer’s side of things:

    — I assume that they are wanting to stick with one type of box because they likely got a packaged deal for the purchase and install of X number of units and decreasing that number could jeopardize their pricing. The reluctance to purchase the “plug and play” units may have something to do with their pricing arrangement with the company and not being able to get a deal on them or the price may only be negligibly better so they figure if we’re gonna pay for these things, we might as well maximize each unit’s capabilities.
    — I don’t believe that anyone is ever going to review the data to see where the OP went in the off hours unless something happens to the car and a claim is filed that somehow involves the employer. Most companies don’t have the resources to review this data with regularity. It’s just stored on a server “in case,” much like our many e-mails.
    — For those people that mention hacking, so what? They get GPS data, maybe your name and home address, which is public information anyway. It’s not like they’re going to get your SSN or banking information. Hackers aren’t stalkers. They want to make money off of stolen data, not hack you to bits in your apartment in the wee hours of the morning
    — With regard to invalidating your warranty on your personal vehicle, that is correct. Invalidating your insurance, is not correct, at least not here in the states. Simply having your employer monitor your whereabouts via a tracking device is irrelevant for insurance reasons, although if they find out about it they would likely LOVE to have the information on it to see how fast you were going at the time of an accident, etc. In fact, some U.S. insurers sell a “plug and play” version of these devices under the guise of lowering your premiums if you are a “good driver.”

    All this said……I would RAISE HELL! It is an unacceptable invasion of privacy and unneeded considering your position. And I would argue that there is justification for the company to use two different types of trackers based on position. Because you are not a delivery driver and not held to those performance standards, there is no need to track your activity as though you are.

    I am a US government employee (big brother…lol) and I am reimbursed for usage of my personal vehicle at the specified rate. Even as a Govt employee, we are not required to use any type of tracking device. For a private company, regardless of the country in which they’re located, to do this to someone in your position is unnecessary and ridiculous. Please take a stand for yourself and your co-workers. Hopefully, you won’t be standing alone.

    1. Observer*

      To respond to the “employer argument”
      The reluctance to purchase the “plug and play” units may have something to do with their pricing arrangement with the company and not being able to get a deal on them or the price may only be negligibly better so they figure if we’re gonna pay for these things, we might as well maximize each unit’s capabilities.

      This is totally not the employee’s problem. This issue is simply part of the cost of doing business with the vendor of your choice.

      I don’t believe that anyone is ever going to review the data to see where the OP went in the off hours unless something happens to the car and a claim is filed that somehow involves the employer. Most companies don’t have the resources to review this data with regularity. It’s just stored on a server “in case,” much like our many e-mails.

      Which means that someone CAN read that data when “just in case” happens. And, at best, that event is not likely to be of benefit to the driver of the car. At worst, that even is of no benefit to the company, but of great harm to the driver. And that’s assuming that no one is actually looking at this data. That’s not a valid assumption – and one that the fleet manager’s response doesn’t fit with.

      — For those people that mention hacking, so what? They get GPS data, maybe your name and home address, which is public information anyway. It’s not like they’re going to get your SSN or banking information. Hackers aren’t stalkers. They want to make money off of stolen data, not hack you to bits in your apartment in the wee hours of the morning

      Wrong on two counts. They actually get a fair amount of data, and much of it can be sensitive. Patterns of travel (especially if the gps and other data is highly accurate) can be quite sensitive. Hackers want to make money off you – and they will do it in any way that they can, whether it’s using your information to drain your bank account or open phony credit cards, or whether it’s by selling your information to thieves or blackmailing you, or even by using the data to trap you into an unrelated scheme.

    2. Sarah*

      It’s not the GPS tracking that would invalidate OP’s insurance, according to the letter. It’s the fact that they have to take apart her dashboard, install the device, hook it up to the car’s battery, replace the dashboard, and drill a permanent hole in it to enable the “privacy” toggle. It’s basically a custom mod of the vehicle, and that may or may not invalidate any given insurance policy, depending on the terms of the policy; OP was clear that it would invalidate hers.

      Also, just as a side note from someone in the insurance industry: insurance companies don’t “love” to have speed and GPS data of their own drivers when they incur a claim. They love to have speed and GPS data of *other* drivers when they incur a claim. Every insurer’s goal is to have the least damning evidence of their own insured’s behavior and the most damning evidence of the third party’s behavior, so they have the highest chance of showing that the fault lay on the third party’s side.

      If an insurance company offers you a tool to help reduce your premium by showing them that you are a safe driver, it’s probably really because their actuaries want normal-use driving statistics for exactly that purpose. It’s a boon to them when you’re driving normally so they can estimate how much risk they’re undertaking by insuring you – not in the event you get into an accident, when the statistical risk doesn’t matter anymore because now it’s a real, non-statistical loss.

  34. KR*

    I think this is definitely a hill worth dying on. If you own the vehicle or the loan is in your name, you have a right to determine what does and doesn’t get installed in the car. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

  35. Alma*

    If you are using a company cell phone, your employer can already track your location, how long you were there, how fast you drove, and where you went for lunch. And if you have to carry the business cell phone after hours in case of emergency, they know where you’re going after hours.

    Parents have the ability to monitor this information for children on their family cell plan. The technology is already in there.

  36. Kiki*

    The privacy considerations in this post are so topical given today’s news about Apple pushing back on the US government’s request to unlock an iPhone. And by the newly set precedent, any iPhone in the future.

    1. Noah*

      Agreed. I was very happy to see Apple push back on this. I liked Apple’s response, they basically said they don’t have a means to do it readily available and the government shouldn’t force them to create one.

  37. Noah*

    I won’t even plug in the stupid thing my insurance company wanted me to. I kept pushing back on that and finally they gave up. Based on my driving habits I was 100% certain it would not result in a discount.

    No way would I allow someone to install a device like this in my car AND have it report the data back to my employer during my off hours. I don’t care if they intend to use it or not, it is not data they have a right to view, use, or even store.

    You have provided them with a reasonable alternative, the portable device. I would definitely stand my ground here.

    1. carlyland*

      Same! No way in hell was I letting insurance track everything. Nice try, I already know what kind of driver I am thank you very much.

  38. Lalala*

    I’m thinking this may fall under the new EU data protection legislation. Which may not go into effect until 2018, but most European countries will have local legislation to the same effect, just without the very heavy fines.
    Nevertheless, two years is not a very long time, so any company which falls under this legislation ought to think about it already. GPS data associated with a person is considered personal data, and will have to be protected and handled with a certain amount of care, since breaches may incur a fine of up to 4% of the company’s turnover. And as far as I know employees may require a full report of all data that the company has stored about the employee. This is costly, and best avoided from the company’s point of view.
    So maybe ask how they’ve planned to accommodate the ‘privacy by design’ requirements of the new EU legislation in this solution?

    1. Irishgal*

      It’s already covered. It’s not a new law that is coming in but a reform of the current EU data protection law which has not been reviewed since it’s inception in 1995 (and was enacted by the various EU countries in the years after that – UK in 1998). Business borders in the EU have broken down so much since 1995 the legislation is being reviewed to take that into account; the reform is aimed at addressing some ambiguities between how the various countries interpreted the underpinning legislation so that it applies the same across the EU irrespective of where you are e.g. you may live in country x but employer’s data storage may be hosted in country y – with the reform these geographical locations will not be relevant). The current law regarding digital data remains very comprehensive despite the age of the legislation in a lot of ways and should be more than adequate for the OPs needs.

  39. Myamitore*

    This whole thing skeeves me out so much. I could easily see myself quitting over this, especially when it comes to the company making modifications to a personal car. OP, you’re absolutely right that this installation could invalidate your warranty and cause all sorts of issues with the electrical system. Plus I know from my line of work how easy it is to hack those things. OP, I would do some research online about how unsecure those systems are and send some of these articles to somebody at your company with the power to change this policy. Also, if you can get documentation from your car warranty company explaining that this will invalidate your warranty, you could provide that to the higher-ups as well. Since the fleet manager doesn’t really have any power to change the decision, he may not be taking your (reasonable) concerns to the people in charge.

    1. OP_Here*

      Looking at it in the cold light of day, this is looking like it’s been a done deal that has been in the pipeline for a long time. The competing systems were piloted 18 months or so ago and then everything fell silent for quite a while, it’s only my gut feeling but I reckon this was signed and sealed perhaps as long as a year ago.

      I doubt anyone below board level has the power to change any of this, and it seems extremely doubtful that the board are going to change course at this stage. I think there’s probably too much money and political capital invested in this now.

      Being a mobile worker for the entirety of my tenure at this job I hardly really know anybody else in the company outside of the team I work in, funny story actually, the last three works Xmas parties I attended weren’t even my own employers’, I actually get invited to and attend one of my longest standing regular customer’s Xmas parties, I actually know my customers a lot better and for a lot longer than the majority of my colleagues. I don’t know whether that’s a testament to my relationship building abilities with my customers or a sad indictment of my company’s working culture…. but that’s a whole other AAM letter.

      …anyway back on topic.

      The meetings weren’t a consultation, the format wasn’t “Here is what we are proposing, what are your thoughts on this?” it was “This is what is going to happen, the reasons for this are x, y and z as explained in this pre-prepared Powerpoint I am about to show you.”

      ..and the last slide of the Powerpoint simply said “Any Questions?” and I swear the colour drained out of the fleet manager’s face as he prepared himself for another onslaught.

      1. OP_Here*

        “Being a mobile worker for the entirety…blah blah blah”

        That rambling aside was meant to illustrate that I have never met, or am ever likely to meet any of the big decision makers at my company, so it kind of looks like a went off on a complete “woe is me” tangent in the middle of that comment for no apparent reason.

  40. Anon for this*

    Not to hijack the thread, but I had privacy concerns with a related but different issue. After accepting an offer, I was told that I need to pass a criminal background investigation and drug test. What happens when an employee has prescriptions for drugs that are targeted for testing, such as Oxycodon or medical marijuana (legal and protected in my state)? Will the employer demand to see a list of the employee’s prescriptions?

    1. Irishgal*


      I carry out these tests for some employer’s and the process is pretty standardised in UK. Obviously I don’t know for sure in US but here when you attend for the test disclose to the tester and bring a copy of your latest prescription form. This will then be taken into account when you test positive. It should not be a barrier for normal non safety critical work but you may require further assessment (by occupational health) in relation to if you do safety critical work (some side effects can delay reaction times etc .. not always a problem in day to day life but can be crucial for safety critical work). Alison probably can comment more accurately on US based law :)

    2. Noah*

      I take Adderall and work in the aviation industry, so I deal with this at least once a year due to random testing. Adderall shows up and looks like methamphetamine, well I guess because it is.

      The place you go to pee in a cup will not want to see or even hear about any prescriptions you are currently taking. You have to wait until the positive test comes back and talk to the MRO.

      Any positive test goes to a Medical Review Officer (MRO). You’ll receive a phone call and they will ask you for the name and phone number of the prescribing physician. From there I assume they contact the prescribing physician and verify it, I don’t really know. If they can’t reach you within 24 hours they will call the Designated Employer Representative and have them tell you to call the MRO.

      The only hiccup I can see for you is medical marijuana. It would cause me to fail a Dept of Transportation drug test. Even if it was legal in my state, the federal government disagrees. There have also been ruling in Colorado that it is legal for employers to terminate employees who test positive for marijuana, despite the fact that it is legal in that state because it is illegal at the federal level.

      1. Anon for this*

        I work in academia, if that matters, not doing anything sensitive or that requires special clearance. Yeah, I have no idea what to expect – whether it is a urine, blood, hair, or mouth swab test, and how things will proceed. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    3. BananaPants*

      What happens is you take the test (often, but not always, at an approved third party facility, like a Quest Diagnostics or Labcorp). If/when you test positive, the testing company’s Medical Records Officer will contact you and ask for the prescriber’s contact info to check it out. If you’re taking legally prescribed scheduled medication, it shouldn’t be a problem once they can confirm it – the employer won’t find out about the “positive” test.

      The medical MJ could pose a problem. I’m pretty sure that even though it’s legal in your state, a private employer doesn’t *have* to be OK with you using it in a form that is not legal at the federal level. They could withdraw a job offer on that basis.

      1. BananaPants*

        And the place where you go for the actual test won’t even want to know what you’re taking or to see the prescription labels – those are too easy to fake. If everything is negative, they don’t care. If something is positive, they’re going to check it out with the prescriber *regardless* of what you tell or show them. No one will take your word for it that you’re taking prescribed Adderall or oxycodone rather than meth or heroin.

  41. OP_Here*

    (LW Here)

    Thanks for the response Alison, and thanks to everyone who’s commented so far.

    Well… at least I can see that the consensus is that my privacy concerns were well founded and I am not a proud wearer of a tin foil hat. What I have noticed and experienced in the past is when you discuss hot button topics with your colleagues, it kind of becomes an echo chamber and often somebody from outside can lend a clearer perspective, well, at least we weren’t all off base in this case.

    “Can you take this over the fleet manager’s head? The person in charge of the cars shouldn’t be the person deciding whether the company is going to inflict a major privacy violation on its employees, along with the demoralization and retention issues that could come along with that. I’d go above him, and do it as a group.”

    Re-reading my initial letter I think I possibly painted the fleet manager in an unfair light like he was the villain, the one responsible for all this, this is coming from way further up the org chart than him (at least board level) so going above his head is not going to make any difference. In fact one of the directors has made a point of letting us all know that he had one of the pilot devices fitted to his car and will eventually have the same device we’re all having (I kind of see what he’s trying to do but it’s a ridiculous token gesture, like anyone except perhaps the CEO would have the authority, never mind the audacity to check in on him). The fleet manager, I believe, was just the unfortunate schmuck that had to deliver the bad news and bear the brunt of the blow back and I think his attitude and glib responses were a symptom of that rather than any real malfeasance on his part.

    At this stage, they (Big Bosses) know that a large chunk of affected employees are not happy about this, but I guess they’ve plotted their course and have decided to ride out the storm. I guess I already know where I stand, it’s happening, they know I’m pissed about it, they don’t care. I have to decide whether I still want the job under these conditions, but unlike usual.. I could end up leaving with an unpleasant remainder still tracking away in my car if they don’t remove it in a timely fashion.

    I’m going to get some proper legal advice about where I stand regarding the invalidation of the warranty, as soon as my employer finally furnishes the full information about how the device fits to the car (they are due to install it before the beginning of the next financial year and we still haven’t got this information) I will contact the dealership I bought the car from and see if I can get something official from them to say whether they will still honour my warranty, also do the same with my insurance. At this stage I don’t think it’s going to stop anything from happening, but it may be the doorway to some recourse (like them accepting liability for losses due to manufacturer invalidating warranty, or possibly increasing the allowance to account for increased insurance).

    One thing is for sure regarding the privacy issues, people are going to be super vigilant once the devices are installed regarding privacy and any perceived slip up is going to be used as a “gotcha” (one of my colleagues “joked” that he was going to drive super carefully on the clock, then speed everywhere at the weekend, so if he was called to account over it, he’d then know they were watching when they shouldn’t be).

    For what it’s worth, reading some of the comments. I think the decision to fit the fully fitted unit is purely a cost issue, they will be getting a significant bulk discount on the amount of units they are buying and the decision to dismiss the plug and play option is simply because of increased cost. Definitely the accountancy department and not the Ministry Of Love responsible for that decision.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Remember to consider if you leave the job and still have the car – the allowance will go away but your costs won’t. And if you try to sell it on, the value presumably is reduced by what will have been done to it, even if the device is removed, if it involved any holes in the dashboard or other permanent changes as some have been referring to.

      1. OP_Here*

        The irritating thing at the moment is that the devices are due to rolled out imminently (before the beginning of the next tax year on the first of April, so literally within the next six weeks) and we still haven’t been given the full information on how the devices fit to our vehicles, whether any holes are drilled in the dash or not (I was told a keyfob style device is used to switch it to privacy mode).

        The cynical part of me wonders if this is deliberate, so we don’t have enough time to research what the warranty implications are before they are already in and the consequences be what they may.

        If any permanent damage is done and warranty invalidated, then by their own standards they should be liable for the vehicle’s drastically reduced value (when returning a company vehicle it is inspected, the cost to make good any damage beyond acceptable fair wear and tear based on it’s age and mileage is charged back to the employee).

    2. Matt*

      I have thought of several differences, perhaps you haven’t thought of, between the two devices discussed. I have a hard time believing that, considering labor involved, a hardwired device would be less costly.

      1. Perhaps your employer does not want employees possibly driving “other” cars. As you mentioned a plug in unit may be used in any vehicle and employer may have reasonable desires to deter you from using your hippie van or hummer for work.
      2. A plug in unit may be more easily spoofed – dishonest employees could plug it into a battery when they arrive on a jobsite and then drive off and do their personal errands while having “proof” that their car was parked at the jobsite all day.
      3. The data must be different – a hardwired CAN BUS or OBD sensor could potentially transmit all vehicle data, even the o2 sensor readings, fuel level, oil level, etc while a plug in could only transmit GPS based data such as speed etc. It would also be active when the vehicle was parked, overnight, etc. If your vehicle was stolen it would not be obvious for a thief to disable or to have been unplugged for the weekend, allowing your employer to recover their investment (car).
      4. Management may want to avoid this issue, “why was your tracker offline for an hour yesterday”
      “oh, was it? it must have come unplugged by accident” of “oh my phone was about to die so I needed to unplug”
      “that’s a breach of policy, your’e fired”
      “It was an accident!”

  42. Cecily*

    Semi-apropos, but I’m a bike courier, and like many bike couriers in my city, I have a bluetooth speaker on my backpack’s straps so I can (quietly!) listen to music during work. Yesterday a customer asked me if it was a tracking device. Uh, no.

    (I actually do carry a tracking device called “Strava”, but I don’t think my employer even knows what it is)

  43. Ivan Bishop*

    Then install a blackspot.org GPS jammer
    People have a basic human right to privacy. Prosecution of invasive employers seems to be the answer here. How far will the sheep , who comprise the bulk of humanity, allow power crazed pseudo tyrants dictate what rights they have.

  44. Karina Jameson*

    I have always hated that nonsense of “If you don’t have anything to hide, you have nothing to worry about and I love you, Allison, for summing up why so succinctly. Spot on – “If you aren’t up to anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about” is offensive in its lack of appreciation for why someone might care about privacy, regardless of what they are or aren’t doing. It’s an attempt to shame people into backing off of important privacy concerns by implying that only wrongdoers should have those concerns, and it has a long and horrid history of being used to justify invasive surveillance. It also ignores the world’s very long history of misusing personal information to harm people who didn’t actually do anything wrong.”

  45. DavidYYZ*

    Usage based car insurance is becoming more and more popular in North America, especially amongst commercial fleets. All of this requires a telematics device to be installed for it to work. I would not be surprised if this becomes more and more common.

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