Private investigator crackdown by ICO

By Damian Moran, Criminal Investigation Team manager.

private-investigator-300-220Private 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.

We will publish our findings from these visits in due course.

You can report concerns about how PIs are handling personal data to our helpline on 0303 1231113.

Damian MoranDamian Moran is a manager in the Criminal Investigation Team within the Enforcement Department, responsible for the investigation of criminal breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Last updated 12/4/2016 15:00

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