Private InvestigatorSurveillance of people by Private Investigators – Comments and Decision of the Data Protection Commissioner

“… I am aware that some insurance companies use private investigators to investigate claims which they suspect are fraudulent or exaggerated. Private investigators in their activities are bound by the Data Protection Acts. I intend to work closely with the Private Security Authority on the licensing requirements that will shortly apply to this sector.
Data protection is about respecting people’s rights to protection of their personal information. This remains the focus of my Office as we deal with these allegations of wrong-doing. I am determined to use the powers given to me by law to ensure that people’s rights are respected by all the organisations concerned.”

In his 2009 Annual Report reference was made to one case investigated that year :
“….The complainant subsequently requested a decision under Section 10 of the Acts. My decision found that the company had contravened Section 2(1)(a) of the Acts by the processing of the employee’s personal data and that of his children, in the recording of images by a private investigator acting on its behalf, without his knowledge or consent.
Covert surveillance of individuals is very difficult to reconcile with the Data Protection Acts. As a minimum and this may not even make such surveillance legal, there must be strong and evidence based justification for such surveillance in the first instance.

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