The Czech Post monitored its mail carriers using GPS devices for one year. In order to determine the quantity of shipments delivered into individual districts and workload of mail carriers, it was tracking the entire routes of mail carriers and the time they spent on them. Then it assessed whether or not mail carriers deviated from their ideal routes. For this project, the Czech Post has “earned” a fine of CZK 80,000 (approximately EUR 3,100) from the Office for the Personal Data Protection (the “Office”). The Office considered such monitoring as a disproportionate interference with the employees’ privacy. The Office believed that in order to achieve the intended purpose of the project, it would have been sufficient to monitor employees for a substantially shorter period, and that it was not necessary to monitor the mail carriers’ entire routes, but only delivery points and times. The Czech Post defended itself against the fine by filing an administrative appeal with the Chairman of the Office. He partially granted the appeal, and moderated the sanctions imposed. However, the Czech Post was not satisfied with such result, and brought an administrative action against the Office’s decision.
The Municipal Court in Prague then had to deal with the arguments of both the Czech Post and the Office. The Office stated that in this case the processing of personal data had actually taken place. Even though the data from the system were not linked with the identification of a particular employee at any given moment, it was quite easy to identify the mail carrier on the basis of the service schedule. The Czech Post alleged that it had not primarily obtained data concerning employees and their privacy, but monitored the performance of their work.
However, the court ruled that such monitoring was only possible if it did not unreasonably and disproportionately interfere with the employees’ privacy. In the court’s opinion, this rule was not adhered to, since the monitoring device could not be switched off even during lunch breaks etc. But the court also stated that there are cases in which such data processing can exceptionally be permitted without the voluntary consent of the data subjects, i.e. if there is a legitimate reason for such data processing. However, the court did not find such reason in this case, among other things, even in the obligation to ensure the observance of letter and postal secrets in activities in the public interests.
In its judgment, the first-instance court therefore ruled that the monitoring of employees by the Czech Post did not meet the criteria of purposefulness, necessity or proportionality, and rejected the Czech Post’s administrative action. In general one has to assume that intensive monitoring of the movement of employees (or their vehicles) may in certain cases be problematic, and that such interference with privacy should always be assessed using the principle of proportionality and purposefulness.