GPS Trackers: Are they legal?

There are many views on this subject and a lot of PI’s and Lawyers who I have talked to have no real idea what the legal situation is. There is even a thread on this subject over on e-LEGAL | Gathering and i promised you an answer too.

People’s gut reaction is that they must be illegal and they mention the frequently used human rights act, the data protection act, RIPA and even the road traffic act… but they can’t point to a piece of legislation that makes them illegal.

So lets look at these possibilities;

The Human Rights Act – Article 8 Right to Privacy

(1) Everyone has the right for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

(2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The key aspect of Human rights is the wording which reads “It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.”

Answer: PI’s are not public authorities and even if they were acting on behalf of a public authority, the tracker is tracking a car not a person and therefore there is no breach.

The Data Protection Act

There are eight principles;

Personal data:

1. Shall be processed fairly and lawfully
2. Shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose(s)
3. Shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed”.
4. Shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.
5. Processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.
6. Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act.
7. Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.
8. Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area, unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection of the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data.

Answer: None of this applies to a car.

RIPA – Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

An Act to make provision for and about the interception of communications, the acquisition and disclosure of data relating to communications, the carrying out of surveillance, the use of covert human intelligence sources and the acquisition of the means by which electronic data protected by encryption or passwords may be decrypted or accessed; to provide for Commissioners and a tribunal with functions and jurisdiction in relation to those matters, to entries on and interferences with property or with wireless telegraphy and to the carrying out of their functions by the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Headquarters; and for connected purposes.

Answer: This has no application to private investigators

Road Traffic Act – – Vehicle Interference under the Criminal Attempts act 1981

If, with intent to commit an offence to which this section applies, a person does an act which is more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence, he is guilty of attempting to commit the offence.

The offence is committed when a person interferes with of motor vehicle or a trailer or with anything carried in it or on it with the intention that an offence specified in sub-section (ii) shall be committed by that person or some other person. The offences under sub-section (ii) are:

a.. Theft of the motor vehicle or trailer or part of it
b.. Theft of anything carried in or on the motor vehicle or trailer.
c.. An offence under s12 TWOC.

Answer: Therefore, if you are fixing a tracking device, you will not be intending to commit any of the above.

Summary:
There is no law to stop you deploying trackers on someone’s car as long as you follow a few simple rules;

1 – Don’t have any tools on you that the police can misinterpret as going equipped.
2 – Always take ID with you and your client’s signed instructions.
3 – Prepare before hand by practising on an identical car.
4 – Don’t get caught!