Processing operations involving vehicles used by employees (part 2)

Car parkWe’ve made you wait a week for it but here is the second part of our blog on monitoring company vehicles and the implications it could have for monitoring your employees.   These two articles form part of our series based on a report on data processing at work by the Article 29 Working Party (‘WP29’), an independent European advisory body on data protection and privacy.

Event data recorders provide an employer with the technical capability of processing a significant amount of personal data about the employees that drive company vehicles. Such devices are increasingly being placed into vehicles with the goal to record video, possibly including sound, in case of an accident.

These systems are able to record at certain times, e.g. in response to sudden braking, abrupt directional change or accidents, where the moments immediately preceding the incident are stored, but they can also be set to monitor continuously.

This information can be used subsequently to observe and review an individual’s driving behaviour with the aim of improving it. Moreover, many of these systems include GPS to track the location of the vehicle in real-time and other details corresponding to the driving (such as the vehicle speed) can be also stored for further processing. 

These devices have become particularly prevalent among organisations whose activities involve transport or have significant vehicle fleets. However, the deployment of event data recorders can only be lawful if there is a necessity to process the ensuing personal data about the employee for a legitimate purpose, and the processing complies with the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity. 

Example: A transport company equips all of its vehicles with a video camera inside the cabin which records sound and video. The purpose of processing these data is to improve the driving skills of the employees. The cameras are configured to retain recordings whenever incidents such as sudden braking or abrupt directional change take place. The company assumes it has a legal ground for the processing in its legitimate interest to protect the safety of its employees and other drivers’ safety. 

However, the legitimate interest of the company to monitor the drivers does not prevail over the rights of those drivers to the protection of their personal data. The continuous monitoring of employees with such cameras constitutes a serious interference with their right of privacy.

There are other methods (e.g., the installation of equipment that prevents the use of mobile phones) as well as other safety systems like an advanced emergency braking system or a lane departure warning system that can be used for the prevention of vehicle accidents which may be more appropriate.

Furthermore, such a video has a high probability of resulting in the processing of personal data of third parties (such as pedestrians) and, for such a processing, the legitimate interest of the company is not sufficient to justify the processing.

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