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Does Tracking a Car Via GPS Violate Driver Privacy?

Does Tracking a Car Via GPS Violate Driver Privacy?

One of the top questions that we get is whether tracking a car via GPS violates driver privacy? The answer depends on several factors. So, let us start with the basics. 

Can you use a GPS tracker on someone else’s vehicle without their permission? Absolutely not. It is illegal in all 50 states to put a GPS tracker on someone else’s vehicle without their permission. It is not only illegal, but it opens you up to all sorts of potential civil lawsuits for violations of privacy. We will not sell you a GPS tracker to place on someone else’s vehicle, and we are flat-out telling you not to do it if you get a GPS tracker somewhere else. It is illegal. 

In fact, while TV shows and movies show police officers putting GPS trackers on suspect’s cars, that is not even legal. In the real world, a police officer must have a warrant before placing a tracker on a suspect’s car. Placing a tracker without a warrant or without specific exigent circumstances is a crime and could actually hinder prosecution. 

So, long story short, you cannot put a tracker on someone else’s vehicle without their permission. 

What about your vehicles? Well, in theory, you have the legal right to put a tracker on any vehicle that you own. However, this area can get a little murky.  What if you own the vehicle, but you do not control the vehicle? For example, you might own a vehicle that is driven primarily by your spouse, your child, or your employee. Can you track them? 

The answer is yes, but it is not an unconditional yes. In some states, as long as you own the vehicle, you can track it, regardless of who is driving it. In other states, the driver has to know about the tracking GPS device. Plus, the relationship impacts whether it is legal.

Employers can track any company-owned vehicle at any time without the driver’s consent. If the employee is driving their own vehicle, then you cannot track them without consent. That includes using devices that could track them off-hours, unless they have consented to being tracked at that time. 

Family members can probably legally track people in vehicles that are community property. Plus, parents can track their minor children. However, this issue can get very murky when we are discussing spouses. Even if you are not violating a criminal law to track your spouse without their knowledge, if they find out about it, you are going to ruin your marriage. So, our advice is to never track an adult without their knowledge. Furthermore, if you are going to track your children, letting them know about the tracking device is probably a better way of discouraging bad behavior than trying to catch them doing something wrong.