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Online Data Protection: New UK Law & Potential Investigative Effects

  • August 20, 2018
  • by Stephanie Irvine
  • Articles

As more of our personal lives blend with the digital world, legislation in both the United States and in the United Kingdom are working to catch up. Between data breaches and identity fraud, the push to get laws on the books to protect citizens are more important than ever.

Over the last year, the United Kingdom has been working on legislation that gives people more rights when it comes to their personal data online. The new laws in the United Kingdom echo the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted in Europe, which effectively make consumers more aware of how data collection companies use their information. They also give people the ability to have their personal information scrubbed from online sources.

Tech companies were hustling to update their privacy policies to comply with this law because unlike physical countries, the internet does not have clear borders. Since online websites, databases, and platforms reach such a wide audience, they must be cognizant of how their information, storage of data, and accessibility of data is viewed in the eyes of laws all over the world.

With the huge push to secure data, how does this affect private investigators?

UK/EU Private Investigators Must Become GDPR Compliant

While this won’t directly affect private investigators in the United States — at least not currently — investigators in Europe and in the United Kingdom will need to become GDPR compliant as regulations went into effect May 25, 2018. Not only does becoming GDPR compliant protect your investigations company from inadvertently violating the law, but it will protect it from heavy fines as well.

Becoming GDPR compliant is not necessarily a simple, easy process. It requires audits, assessments and a careful review of how your company handles sensitive data. Companies that deal with data must employ a data privacy officer and adhere to the regulations set forth by the European Union. Companies wishing to access the complete rules for businesses may do so by visiting the new European Commission’s website that is geared specifically to data protection. If you conduct investigations in the European Union (or otherwise wish to be GDPR compliant) we recommend reading through the regulations to see if you need to make adjustments to your company’s practices.

If you collect investigation information online, be sure that it stems from a reliable source that does not collect their information via sources that are now illegal. However, most social media investigations pull from posts that the individuals or friends post themselves, reducing the chance that GDPR laws will affect gathering this kind of evidence.

Investigators based in the United States who do any investigations outside of the United States will want to make sure they are GDPR compliant for extra protection as well. Being GDPR compliant will instill trust in clients and help prevent your company from being a victim of a data breach itself.

How Data Laws Affect Social Media Searches

While the new laws aim to help people protect their data, they may prove to be a slight hindrance to private investigators trying to access personal information online, especially when it comes to social media.

Because people feel that their data is less secure than in recent years, they may be taking advantage of privacy tutorials and checkups that allow them to review what information is available to the general public and to private investigators. By having less information publicly available, private investigators may need more ingenuity and investigation to recover personal information from a subject. Additionally, social media sites may be offering more privacy protection to consumers, which could also inhibit investigators’ ability to recover private information.

Social media investigators must become more skilled in research and use advanced search techniques should they experience any hurdles gathering information. Becoming an expert in searching through online databases, social media profiles, and traditional investigative tactics will help mitigate any issues that may arise from higher online privacy.

Ultimately, social media remains an easy way to find information on a subject, and the impacts of the legislation on the private investigation industry remain minimal.

GDPR Still Beneficial for Society

While we don't foresee the GDPR greatly affecting online investigations, even in the event that a similar law is passed in the United States, it is important to stay informed and updated on these matters. For private investigators, there are still public records and databases that may contain important information regarding a case or information that would be helpful in locating an individual. However, investigators must continue being resourceful to uncover evidence while being legally compliant.

Overall, greater online privacy is beneficial for society as it gives people the power over their own information. Investigators must recognize that while it may make social media investigations slightly more complicated, GDPR has had minimal negative effects. The benefits of the GDPR outweigh any slight inconvenience experienced by investigators.

Getting an experienced private investigator who is aware of data laws and regulations is important so that evidence found will be admissible in court. Find a local qualified private investigator using our network of licensed private investigators today.

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