The use GPS Electronic Tracking Device as part of a covert surveillance has always been a thorny issue and one that often raises unpleasant attention. It will surprise most to know that whilst some surveillance tools are regulated and that even though the subject of surveillance has its very own Government sponsored regulator in the ‘Office of Surveillance Commissioners’ that the use of GPS Electronic Tracking Devices when used in the private sector remain specifically unregulated.
This has created a huge area of confusion and uncertainty for those working within the industry, their legal advisors and also the regulatory sector itself. There is a myriad of opinions and interpretations from taking into account the implications of the The Regulation of Investigative Powers Act 2000, The Data Protection Act 1998 and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. One of the first contentious points is whether planting a lump of metal on an inanimate object, like a vehicle, constitutes processing personal data.
The Association of British Investigators (ABI) of which Tremark Associates are a long standing corporate member, have for a number of years been very concerned about the possible irresponsible use of tracking and surveillance devices by some uninformed investigative agencies. The Association, conscious that the use of such surveillance tools are difficult to control, has sought to put clarity on the subject to assist and inform its own regulated element of the investigative sector.
The Information Commissioners Office recently added to the confusion when it published a report suggesting that the deployment of a GPS Electronic Tracking Device was a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. The Association of British Investigators and its members strong view is that whilst such electronic devices and their supporting software may process personal data, providing that the processing of the data is carried out in compliance of the Act, there is no law making their use ‘illegal’.
The ABI has now produced a policy for its members on the ‘Use and Deployment of GPS Electronic Tracking Devices it can be read by clicking here
I believe that this ABI policy will give professionally minded and responsible investigators in the private sector a clear understanding of the correct and lawful use and deployment of GPS Electronic Tracking Devices.
The Policy is specifically aimed at ABI members who are bound by the ABI Code of Ethics and Professional Standards, accountable to abide by ABI policy guidelines and are subject to the ABI’s robust and independently adjudicated discipline process, that could see an ABI member breaching any of this policy’s guidelines face expulsion from the ABI.
The policy ensures that before a surveillance team embarks on a surveillance operation and considers deploying a GPS Electronic Tracking Device the team members are properly trained, fully aware and compliant with the regulatory issues in processing personal data and more so when assisted with such a covert tool. The document concludes with an easy do’s and don’ts Policy list and a helpful Privacy Risk Assessment template for case management use and compliance purposes.