What You Should Know about the Data Protection Act and Vehicle Tracking

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The UK’s Data Protection Act of 1998 was established to deal with data privacy concerns and employee rights. It is crucial for professionals intending to track their fleets to understand which related laws apply. Many vehicle tracking benefits can still be realized within legal frameworks, but some lines should never be crossed. 

What is Data Protection and What Applies in the Data Protection Act?

Data protection can be described as the process and practice of safeguarding personal information and the laws to protect it from compromise, corruption, or loss. Personal data involves any form of information relating to an individual, whether privately, professionally, or publically. Anonymized data is not protected in the same way.

It is growing increasingly difficult for individuals to maintain control of their personal information due to the ever-increasing amounts of data shared instantly online. That is where the need for data protection comes in. 

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets out the lawful basis of data processing in Article 6. In most cases data processing becomes necessary only when there is a specific purpose. When the purpose can be achieved without the need for processing data, then it means there is no lawful basis to go on with the process.

At least one of the following grounds must apply for you to process data lawfully:

  1. Direct Permission - There should be a clear consent from the individual for you to proceed with personal data processing for particular purposes.
  2. Legal Obligation - If the law requires you to process personal data, not include contractual agreements.
  3. Contract - If the individual has requested you to take specific measures before going into a contract.
  4. Public Task - If data enables you to perform a duty in the interest of the public, or for official functions, where both have a clear lawful basis.
  5. Vital Interests - If processing data necessitates protecting someone’s life.
  6. Legitimate Interests - If data is vital for your legitimate interests, or a third party’s interests, unless there is a solid reason to protect the individual’s information. In this case, the individual’s rights must override those other interests.

Vehicle Tracking and Data Protection

Tracking fleet vehicles is obviously still permitted, but there are several nuances that need to be kept in mind. 

Fleet Vehicle Tracking

Fleet managers can legally track their drivers’ vehicles, provided they can prove one of the above bases applies. Tracking a company vehicle means you are processing the driver’s personal data according to the Data Protection Act and GDPR. Compliance with both is a requirement before proceeding with the process.

Employers must notify their employees of the presence of any devices installed in the fleet vehicles. They must also state that they are tracking employees’ locations and monitoring the use of company vehicles.

It gets more complicated when an employer authorizes the use of a business vehicle for private use. There might be little proof that tracking the vehicle location outside working hours is necessary for such a scenario. In most cases, employers simply allow their drivers to turn off tracking systems outside the stipulated business hours.

Vehicle Tracking and Telematics

The advantages of vehicle tracking and telematics are well documented across the automotive industry. These devices give fleet managers needed information to improve fleet efficiency, minimize costs of operation, and offer quality customer service. 

But how much data is considered too much?

It is still difficult to answer this question satisfactorily. A bit of confusion clouds the laws and regulations surrounding telematics data collection, barring potential investors. The launch of the data protection act in 2018, which calls for more severe fines for infractions, does not seem to help much.

As of now, we are yet to see any major victim of hefty fines under GDPR due to the use of tracking devices. According to expert opinion, telematics data falls under personal data, and is therefore subject to fall under the GDPR remit. It was argued that telematics data is made up of personal data as it records drivers and other staff’s activities.

Key Data Protection Principles for Telematics Data

Finding a lawful ground for processing and storing personal data is guided by the GDPR. Some principles potential telematics buyers should be aware of include:

  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency - All collected and processed data should be fair and reasonable under the lawful basis stated above, and the subject of data should not be misleading.
  • Purpose limitation - The intended purpose of collecting and storing data should be clear from the beginning. The data should not be diverted for use on other purposes without individual consent.
  • Data minimization - Employers can only collect as much data as needed to fulfill a stated purpose.
  • Storage limitation - Employers should not store personal data longer than they need it.
  • Integrity and confidentiality - Companies must put in place data protection measures to ensure no unauthorized processing, compromise, or personal data loss.

It is always advisable to seek legal advice if you have doubts or uncertainties over your obligations or those of your suppliers.

The Data Protection Act grants several new provisions to data subjects that fleet companies may need to uphold to use tracking and telematics solutions for their vehicles in a compliant manner. Most importantly, the right to get information about how data is collected and used, the right to the data access, and in rare circumstances, the right to demand data erasure.


With all the necessary information regarding the legalities and illegalities of vehicle tracking and data protection, you are in a position to choose the perfect partner. The emphasis should be on achieving the benefits as a business, while at the same time staying on the right side of the law.

Azuga highly recommends compliant fleet tracking and helps customers to make advised choices. The benefits of fleet telematics are immense, and you’ll need an accurate telematics solution that simplifies the processes of data collection, data analysis, and leveraging on the gathered data.