Confidentiality is a key foundation for trust between a client and a private investigator. Without trust, the client will not feel free to talk about details that may be useful for the investigation and the private investigator will not be able to fully meet the client’s expectations. Clients need to trust their private investigator and know that whatever information they share will be treated as sensitive data that cannot be shared or revealed to anyone else. Professional private investigators are fully aware that respecting their client’s right to privacy is a top priority that cannot be compromised, except in the direst of circumstances. So, when is it justified to breach confidentiality? While it is important to protect the client’s privacy, there are some instances when it is justified. We talked about these circumstances in detail below.
When information is sought by the law with a court order, the private investigator cannot give false or misleading information, says Michael Porter of Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc. What the investigator can do is refrain from revealing details that are not specifically asked. Another possible scenario is when a case involves terrorism, violence, or an attack. In these cases, the investigator is required by law to inform the authorities.
Disclosure with consent refers to sharing information with the verbal or written consent of the client. A private investigator will usually prefer written consent for protection against dispute later. The client will also have to be in a lucid state of mind for the consent to be valid. An example of this may be where the client wants to share their story in order to help people who may be going through a similar circumstance.
This justification is tricky and can be very subjective. The safest way to use this type of justification is when you need to warn an identifiable victim of threats or possible harm. It is often a smart idea to consult a lawyer or an experienced private investigator if it is not clear if something is public interest or just something that the public may have an interest in. A clear example of this, may be when the investigator is interviewing the client and they disclose plans to cause harm to someone related to the case.
When a private investigator is working with a team on a file, the private eye should inform the client that other people will be involved in the investigation and what their duties are in the fulfilment of the private investigation services. It is best to limit the involved team members and discuss which information certain members may have access to in order to limit the possibility of leaks and breaches. Team members are often bound by a contract as well as professionally vetted for their competency as well as trustworthiness.
Leaving case files where other people may accidentally see them can lead to unintentional breaches. If the case file was taken home and somehow got switched with a folder for someone else, then that is a breach that should have been avoided with proper security protocols in place. Emails, as well as computers, should at the very least be password protected and any copies in hard drives or portable storage devices should be kept with utmost care.
With the points above considered, breaches may still be an issue within your firm. If in doubt, you should always seek assistance from a trusted and knowledgeable lawyer to guide your way through the process, before taking any direct action.