Insights Information Commissioner’s Office to crackdown on private investigators suspected of unlawful practices.

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 it has gathered about the way private investigators (PIs) handle personal data.

The work of PIs involves obtaining, handling and reporting personal information.  As such, the ICO reminds readers, they must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and be registered as data controllers with the ICO.

The ICO is concerned that some PIs are not following these rules, by:

  • maintaining extensive records of personal information and selling it to anyone willing to pay for it;
  • “blagging” to obtain personal information illegally;
  • hacking to obtain personal information; and
  • failing to register with the ICO, which is a criminal offence.

The ICO says that it has 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 that may be in breach of the Data Protection Act.

Officers are visiting PIs who the ICO believes 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.

The ICO says that it will publish its findings from these visits in due course.  To read the ICO’s press release in full, click here.