Private investigators cautioned by ICO over data harvesting

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has spoken out about the allegedly spurious actions of many investigators who work in the UK on a freelance basis, with questions being raised over the way in which they gather both online data and paper data on their targets.

The ICO is concerned that the regulations of the Data Protection Act (DPA) are rarely heeded by those whose job it is to carry out investigations without the direct authority of the police.

The ICO issued a statement explaining the types of data typically collected and used by private eyes and said that many were in contravention of the DPA because of the nature of the data and the manner in which they had acquired.

Private details on individuals, from addresses and phone numbers to bank account information, are routinely gathered by investigators, the ICO said. It pointed out that anyone collecting this type of information was obliged under the DPA to notify it in order to ensure that no citizens are being exploited.

The ICO has contacted the associations of private investigators operating domestically and internationally in order to highlight the issues and request that, in future, the members act within the law rather than in a manner that puts them in breach of the terms of the DPA and in the same boat as hackers and cybercriminals.

Investigators who notify the ICO of their data harvesting activities will have to pay a 35 administration charge, but there is the deterrent of much larger fines looming over those who might consider avoiding this relatively small figure.

The ICO was keen to restate its stance on the matter, claiming that it would be taking action against any investigator who did not report their data-related activities in the appropriate manner and in due course. However, it did say that it would be partnering with the associations in order to work together and find a solution to its grievances, rather than gunning for every investigator on an individual basis.

The ICO’s David Smith said his department was taking a firm stance on this issue, in the interests of protecting personal information and private data from misuse.

Our Customers

  • ATOS
  • Age UK
  • Alliance Pharma
  • Liverpool Football Club
  • CSC
  • Centrica
  • Citizens Advice
  • City of London
  • Fujitsu
  • Government Offices
  • HCL
  • LK Bennett
  • Lambretta Clothing
  • Leicester City
  • Lloyds Register
  • Logica
  • Meadowvale
  • National Farmers Union
  • Network Rail
  • PKR

Sales question? Need support? Start a chat session with one of our experts!

For support, call the 24-hour hotline:

UK: 0800 999 3600
US: 800-220-7013

Or, if you've been given a screen sharing code:

Existing customer?

Click below to login to our secure enterprise Portal and view the real-time status of your data protection.

Login to Portal