The relentless progress of micro-electronics development has caused electronic devices to become ever smaller and ever more powerful. The miniaturisation of equipment has led to the ability to place devices like cameras, microphones and trackers in novel and discreet locations that allow them to remain undetected. Because of this, there has been a huge surge in the development and use of covert equipment, which has had a big impact on personal privacy.
Tracking or recording someone without their knowledge or consent should not be undertaken without first familiarising yourself with the legal issues, in most cases it is considered an invasion of privacy and sometimes a breach of data protection. This is especially true of those who place trackers on cars which they do not own.
There are many situations however, where the installation of an unobtrusive covert tracker is both reasonable and sensible; for example in theft recovery and asset tracking, where it is important that the device isn’t tampered with.
In what ways are covert trackers important to those running fleets of vehicles?
It is now commonplace to have some kind of tracking device installed in company vehicles as a means of recording progress and improving despatch efficiencies. In many cases it makes sense to have a covert or hidden device as well as the one which is on show. This may be advantageous for three distinct reasons;
- The logging of unauthorised miles. Many employees take a company delivery vehicle home at the end of shifts and at weekends so that it is ready for them to use again at the start of the next shift. It makes sound financial sense to allow this as it makes the worker ready to start a shift right away rather than having to stop at a depot and go on from there. Unauthorised mileage can sometimes become an issue, which not only racks up maintenance miles on a vehicle, but also uses fuel and may invalidate insurance policies. While overt tracking devices may be switched off, a covert one will always record these unauthorised trips.
- False insurance claims. The practice of false-plating vehicles – having a set of false number plates made and fitted to a vehicle used for some crime – is on the increase, and it is becoming increasingly complex to prove the innocence of a company driver. By fitting discrete tracking devices to all company vehicles, absolute proof of that vehicles position can be demonstrated. Recent cases of this have included instances where a company vehicle was apparently involved in a fuel theft from a garage, but the company used recorded data to show that the actual vehicle of that registration was some 70 miles away at the time.
- Curbing dangerous driving practices. Fitting all company vehicles with tracking devices allows a fleet manager to build up a picture of vehicle usage and any legal incursions made. Speeding in particular is regarded as being both anti-social and dangerous, and convictions will soon raise insurance premiums. By having covert recording devices installed in all company vehicles, infringements of expected behaviour.
- Recovery of stolen vehicles. With vehicle theft on the increase, having covert tracking systems installed can speed up recovery. Many thieves will expect a company vehicle to be fitted with a tracking device, and their first priority is to disable any tracking devices. By fitting a covert device, a company can be fairly much assured that the police can continue to track the vehicle even though the thieves believe otherwise.
What are covert Trackers?
Covert or hidden trackers usually refer to buy cheap GPS trackers such as those available on online auction sites; or cheap vehicle tracking systems. They are fitted with their own battery power supply and have strong magnets on the casing. These magnets allow them to be positioned underneath a vehicle, and their power supply means that they can run for a number of hours or days depending on the frequency of location transmissions. Some of the cheaper models do not feature a SIM card or data connection, and must be retrieved and connected to a computer in order to access the stored data. Such trackers are not suitable for fleet use, and are more commonly used by suspicious parents or spouses in order to gather data.
Most fleet tracking devices available on the market today can be fitted covertly – often in the engine compartment or behind the dashboard. Placing them in these positions makes them less likely to be damaged during normal use, and also less likely to be tampered with. It also allows them to be connected to the vehicle’s battery as a power source, meaning that they never run out of charge. As such, all of these devices could be described be described as covert.