We all need a data protection refresher course every now and then. This post looks at the Data Protection Act 1998 and the implications for Private Investigators.
Recent reports in the national newspapers about the activities of Glenn Mulcaire highlight the need to bear the Act in mind when carrying out investigations. It should be noted that Glenn was working as an ‘in house’ private investigator and not as a Private Investigator when he allegedly used dubious techniques to gather intel. He was imprisoned for 6 months. In January this year there were huge fines and prosecution costs levied against 5 people, ranging from £2,000 – £7,000 inclusive.
Private Investigator Data Protection Uses.
Now we know why it is important from a personal point of view, who wants to risk huge fines or even prison. There are simple checks you can carry out to ensure you are acting within the Act:
- You must verify the identity of the person who wants you to find out the information, in order to ensure they are requesting the information within the realms of the law.
- Where possible make requests for information in writing.
- You should provide the person holding the information with as many details as possible, without breaching DPA yourself. The person holding the information should then consider your request and if it’s within the law then they may, but do not have to provide it.
- Know why the information is being requested. It could be for court evidence in cases of suspected criminal wrongdoing, to prevent a crime from happening in the first place, personal or employment related circumstances. This can have an impact on whether you can disclose information without a court order.
- How much information is enough? You should only disclose the minimum amount of information necessary to comply with the law.
These are guidelines that have been issued from the Information Commissioners Office, These include general guidelines for holders of information and for private investigator data protection.