Covert Surveillance and Privacy

Sean Gladney

Despite what's portrayed in crime movies and television shows, covert surveillance can be challenging. Following individuals without being noticed, having the ability to keep composure if noticed and questioned by a neighbour or a member of the general public and following privacy laws requires skilled and experienced private investigators. At the Investigators Group (IGI), our investigators have over 25 years of covert surveillance experience.Covert Surveillance and Privacy


There are a number of reasons private investigators conduct covert surveillance, some of which include, obtaining evidence prior to an interview, locating persons for the purpose of catching their criminal activities, obtaining evidence relating to health insurance claims, obtaining evidence for use in court, to locate stolen/hidden property, and many more.


We are often asked to comment on whether the use of surveillance is permitted under applicable privacy legislation and to address concerns that surveillance by a private investigator infringes on a subject’s privacy. 


The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has recognized that an organization may be justified in undertaking surveillance on an individual under appropriate circumstances.  If there is a demonstrated and legitimate purpose and objective, then it is recognized that surveillance could be an effective tool. Courts too have recognized surveillance as a legitimate tool in defense of personal injury claims and have also held in other cases that an employee had no reasonable expectation of privacy, given that the surveillance occurred in a public place and was a public activity engaged in by the employee.


Private investigators are not required to obtain the consent of the subject to perform surveillance. In fact, to do so would compromise the accuracy of the information and privacy laws recognize such limited and specific situations where consent is not required.   


Conversely, an individual has a right to privacy in their place of residence and thus an investigator cannot enter a person’s home or property to obtain surveillance. However, it’s important to determine whether a less privacy-invasive alternative to covert surveillance is possible to retrieve the desired information. Upon reviewing all aspects of the case, our skilled investigators will provide the client with a thorough list of options and recommendations to determine whether there’s a less privacy-invasive course of action. They also complete all required background checks to ensure due diligence. The type of information collected prior to surveillance depends on the particular case.


It is a good idea for organizations to implement a policy on using surveillance and when hiring a private investigator, document clearly the purpose of the surveillance. 

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