Watch out Eddie Shoestring; private investigators suspected of unlawful practices can expect a knock at the door from Information Commissioner’s Office investigators in the coming weeks as the regulator begins a major crackdown on dodgy data practices.
The action by the ICO’s Criminal Investigation’s team follows intelligence that has been gathered about the way some private investigators 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.
But the ICO is concerned 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” and hacking to illegally obtain personal information; and failing to register with the ICO, which is a criminal offence.
The ICO 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 which may be in breach of the Data Protection Act.
Officers are visiting PIs who are believed to be 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.
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