Navigating invasion of privacy laws can be challenging, especially when you’re new to the private investigative industry. Because of the way privacy is depicted in popular culture, some people believe that a private investigator’s work is, oftentimes, on the wrong side of the law. However, as more states and countries begin to regulate and license investigators, this perception is gradually changing. It’s still your due diligence as a private investigator to understand and work within the invasion of privacy laws.
The first way you can violate invasion of privacy laws is not asking permission to use an individual’s likeness for profit. This shouldn’t be a common issue for private investigators, unless they are using a person’s photo that was taken on the job for marketing or promotional purposes. This is called misappropriation, which is using an individual’s likeness or image without getting permission, and making profit from such use.
Intrusion upon seclusion is another invasion of privacy law of which private investigators need to be aware. The law is defined as “one who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.” One of the following four elements must be proven by the violated individual:
- There was an unauthorized intrusion or prying into his seclusion
- The intrusion was highly offensive to or objectionable to a reasonable person
- The matter intruded upon was private
- The intrusion caused anguish and suffering
Third, you may face a violation of invasion of privacy laws if you make medical records or similar private records public without the individual’s consent. As a private investigator, you will not often come across any records that are not public in nature.
Lastly, a false light claim allows an individual to sue for the public disclosure of information that is misleading, but not technically false. If someone was to make a false light claim, he or she must be able to provide the following elements:
- A publication was made by the defendant about the plaintiff
- The publication was made with reckless disregard for verity
- The publication places the plaintiff in a false light
- It would be highly offensive or embarrassing to a reasonable person
This false light claim is often made against journalists and publications, such as newspapers or magazines, but there are still some cases where this can apply to a private investigator.
It’s important to be cautious when performing an investigationand it’s imperative you ensure that you’re not violating any invasion of privacy laws. The National Investigative Training Academy, founded and staffed by experienced investigators, offers online courses that will give you in-depth industry knowledge and a thorough grasp of the profession’s ethical guidelines. Call us or visit our website today to find out more about obtaining your private investigator license. Share this posts to instill an everlasting sense of ethical responsibility in your fellow private investigators, and remind them of the importance of their actions to the profession as a whole.