Private Investigator Fine £89,000 for ‘Blagging’ Information
Private Investigator Fined £89,000 for ‘Blagging Information’
A man who ran a company that tricked organisations into revealing personal details about customers has been ordered to pay a total of £20,000 in fines and prosecution costs, as well as a confiscation order of over £69,000 at a hearing at Isleworth Crown Court.
The practice of ‘Blagging’ information is one where individuals purposely deceive others in an effort to gain private information that would otherwise be restricted to them under the Data Protection Act.
The private Investigation company in question had worked on behalf of clients to trace individuals, primarily for the purpose of debt recovery and had routinely tricked organisations into releasing private information, often by claiming to be the individuals in question who they were attempting to trace.
The company targeted several orgonisations in their efforts to trace individuals for the purposes of debt recovery including.
- Utility companies
- GP surgeries
- TV Licensing
ICO Warning to Private Investigators
ICO Criminal Investigations Team Manager Damian Moran said:
“Private investigators must learn they are not above the law. While the majority of private investigators go about their business in an honest manner, unscrupulous operators such as ICU Investigations Ltd taint the industry and blight the reputations of their counterparts.
“These men knew they were breaking the law, but did so anyway, presumably confident they would not be caught. That faith was misplaced, and they and their employees will now face the consequences of their actions.”
Clients of Investigation Company
The investigation by the ICO found no evidence that the clients of the investigation company had committed any offence as the information could have typically be obtained legitimately.
This case highlights the importance for those employing the services of investigators to ensure that any information offered has been obtained legitimately and for investigators to be able to evidence how they obtained the data provided to their clients. This approach provides transparency to those employing the services of investigators.
All of those involved in the collection of information have a duty under the Data Protection Act there are several offences that may be commited under Section 55 of the DPA
Section 55(1) DPA unlawful obtaining etc. of personal data
It is an offence to knowingly or recklessly obtain, disclose or procure the disclosure of personal information without the consent of the data controller.
If a person has obtained personal information illegally it is an offence to offer or to sell personal information. Section 55(3) makes the contravention of section 55(1) a criminal offence.
Section 55(4) and section 55(5) DPA create offences of selling and offering to sell personal data.
For the purposes of section 55(5) DPA an advertisement indicating that personal data are or may be for sale is an offer to sell the data.
When a client employs the services of a Private Investigator and pays for their services in obtaining information then Section 55(4) and Section 55(5) apply to the investigation company who agrees to obtain and provide information to their client. For this reason it is critical that all information is obtained with the knowledge and consent of the Data Controller.
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