New briefing details the growth of the private intelligence industry in the UK and what needs to be done about it.
The UK has become an offshore haven for the private intelligence industry
Comprised of hundreds of private detectives, corporate intel firms and PR agencies, and often staffed by ex-spooks, the industry operates around the world
Reports detail use of hacking techniques, monitoring of environmental and other activists, and running fake ‘astroturfing’ campaigns for big polluters.
Briefing examines the current legal landscape in the UK, how these firms are regulated by the UK’s data protection and surveillance laws, and the gaps in regulation which make their operations possible.
This briefing takes a look at the private intelligence industry, a collection of private detectives, corporate intel firms, and PR agencies working for clients around the world that have made London their hub.
Often staffed by ex-spooks, and promising complete secrecy, little is known about them. But reports over the years have exposed their operations, including things like hacking and targeting of anti-corruption officials, spying on peaceful environment activists, and running fake ‘astroturfing’ campaigns for big polluters.
This burgeoning industry offers individuals, corporations, and foreign government agencies access to an extensive range of powers and poses a significant threat to the rights, work and safety of rights defenders, environmental campaigners, journalists, and others in the UK and abroad.
Yet, despite increasing evidence, they operate without meaningful scrutiny or safeguards aimed at preventing abuse, and nothing is being done to reign them in.
Our briefing examines the current legal landscape in the UK, how these firms are regulated by the UK’s data protection and surveillance laws, notably the Data Protection Act 2018, the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, and the gaps in regulation which currently exist.
We need tougher enforcement of these laws and a new regulation for private spies: in contrast to other countries, private investigators are unlicensed in the UK, and no progress has been made in introducing a mandatory licensing regime for private investigators despite government commitments to doing so and support from industry associations.
The full briefing is available here.
SOME SUBJECTS DESERVE OR NEED COMMENT
The following comments are the writers personal opinion:
The Article claims “We need tougher enforcement of these laws and a new regulation for private spies”
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
Thank you Bob Dylan.
REGULATION, LICENSING OF ALL INVESTIGATORS – AS PER PSIA (UPDATE NECESSARY), OR JUST START OVER, AS PROPOSED BY WAPI SINCE 1999, THROUGH COUNTY COURT (CERTIFICATED) –
SELF FUNDING, SIMPLE TO OPERATE, EFFECTIVE IN COMPLIANCE.
UK Parliament – Home Affairs Committee
WAPI: “The wider Investigation Sector has for over 60 years been seeking regulation—licensing, as has been the norm in many other countries since the early 1900’s in the 1950’s one Association submitted that Investigators could and should be regulated by the certification method through the County Court, a well tried and efficient method which had for years been applied in respect of Private Bailiffs, known as Certificated Bailiffs. Again in the early 1970’s The Younger Commission (Privacy) heard Evidence (from this Witness) along the same lines, to have all Investigators Certificated as (Certificated Enquiry Agents) through the County Courts, a self-financing method whereby the Applicant could satisfy a Registrar/Judge as to Character and Competence and with References, whereupon he could become Certificated, this would immediately bring in self-regulation and would ensure that Certificated Investigators would avoid any act which may lead to suspension or cancellation of the Certification.
To this end, WAPI sought to garner support for PI Regulation by way of transferring from the Private Security Industry Act 2000 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 the regulation of Private Investigators thereby affording an immediate positive step in regulating the Sector for the benefit of all concerned.
Home Affairs Committee Written evidence submitted by the World Association of Professional Investigators
Ian (D. Withers)