UK Information Commissioner’s Office cracking down on private investigators

April 19, 2016 |

The phone hacking scandal in the UK, with the News of the World being the biggest offender, has had a seismic effect on regulation, not to mention giving the law of privacy a kick a long. The scandal involved employees or agents of News of the World, and other UK newspapers, hacking into the phones of celebrities or individuals in the public eye for one reason or another.  The hacked contents provided basis for stories.  For a quick review of what happened and when the CNN has prepared a useful synopsis here.  Private investigators played a role in the actual hacking of phones.

Given private investigators were involved and information is their stock in trade it is entirely reasonable to expect the regulator of personal information should take an interest in their activities. Amongst the professional are the less scrupulous.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has announced a very public crackdown on private investigators in an announcement, Private investigator crackdown by ICO.

It provides:

Private investigators suspected of unlawful practices will be surprised by doorstep visits by officers from the ICO this week.

The action by the ICO’s Criminal Investigation’s team follows intelligence we’ve gathered about the way private investigators (PIs) handle personal data.

The work of PIs involves obtaining, handling and reporting personal information. As such they must comply with the Data Protection Act and be registered as data controllers with the ICO.

Our concerns are that some PIs are not following these rules, including:

  • Maintaining extensive records of personal information and selling it to anyone willing to pay for it
  • “Blagging” to illegally obtain personal information
  • Hacking to obtain personal information
  • Failing to register with the ICO, which is a criminal offence

We have also had reports about the use of surveillance and tracking devices by PIs, and of PIs failing to give individuals access to information held about them. These are actions which may be in breach of the Data Protection Act.

Officers are visiting PIs who we believe are offering services that could be construed as unlawful, or who appear to have not registered with the ICO. Members of the investigation team will arrive unannounced, explain the reason for their visit and then investigate the concerns further.

One Response to “UK Information Commissioner’s Office cracking down on private investigators”

  1. UK Information Commissioner’s Office cracking down on private investigators | Australian Law Blogs

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