The issue surrounding the legality of vehicle tracking has become more prominent in recent years. This is largely because the use of tracking systems has become more widespread during this time. Whilst the technology has been in place for over a decade, it is only recently that it has been used on a mass scale. The largest growth for the technology has been in the commercial sector where employers have realized the benefits of being able to track fleet vehicles.
In this article we will discuss some of the legal issues surrounding vehicle tracking and answer the key question: is vehicle tracking legal in Canada?
Domestic Use: When Tracking is Legal
Vehicle tracking is legal in Canada provided the owner of the car is aware such a system has been installed onto their vehicle. Indeed, there are many benefits to having a tracking system installed. If your car was to be stolen it is much more likely to be recovered if it can be tracked. For this reason, insurance companies offer reduction on premiums.
The picture, however, is less clear when we look at the driver of a vehicle as opposed to its owner. It is perfectly legal for a vehicle to be installed with a tracking device without the driver's knowledge or consent. Whilst some may question the morality of such a move it, is not illegal for a vehicle owner to track his or her vehicle without its driver knowing anything about it.
Domestic Use: When Tracking is Illegal
Placing a tracking device in a vehicle without the owner's consent is illegal and can lead to prosecution and a hefty fine. In extreme circumstances it can even lead to a prison sentence. The main exception to this is when law enforcement track a vehicle. Even then, the police must have a strong case that the information obtained by tracking a vehicle will lead to an arrest and prosecution.
Commercial Use: When Tracking is Legal
The legality surrounding commercial use of vehicle tracking systems is similar to the laws on domestic use. As long as the owner of the vehicle allows the tracking device to be installed, it is legal. However, the issue is more controversial than with domestic use largely because the vehicle owner in commercial world is more often not the driver. In most cases, it is a company which owns a fleet of vehicles and its employees who drive them on a regular basis.
Of course, many employers may choose to tell their employees that their vehicles have a tracking device installed on them, but they are under no legal obligation to do so. This is because the law states that the owner of the vehicles should ensure their vehicles are being driven safely and a tracking system is one way of doing this. Companies can legitimately argue that they have a responsibility to ensure the vehicles they own are being driven safely and used for their intended purpose. For example, should an employer drive home when he is supposed to be working, then the vehicle is not being used for its purpose and a tracking system will alert the company to this fact.
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Commercial Use: When Tracking is Illegal
Much like in the domestic situation, vehicle tracking becomes illegal when the owner of a vehicle is not aware of its existence. For example, a rival company may track the vehicles of another to try and find out how they operate. This is illegal and is punishable by a fine or prison term. Again, law enforcement is the only exception, although certain criteria must be met before the police can legally track a commercial vehicle.
An Overview of Canadian Law on Tracking
Vehicle tracking is becoming more popular across Canada. In such a vast country with many remote areas the technology helps ensure a driver's safety. The legality of vehicle tracking is clear; as long as the owner of the vehicle is aware, there is no problem. While some might question the morality of drivers who do not own a vehicle being unaware they are being tracked, legally no law is being broken. Only the police and other law enforcement agencies have the power to track a vehicle without the owner's consent.