Private Investigators UK

What Can UK Private Investigators Legally Do To Trace You?

Writer’s Bio: Lewis Murawski is the Managing Director of Kahootz Media digital marketing agency. He has been ranking websites on the first page of Google for more than 10 years. 

Part of a private investigators job often involves tracking an individual or group of individual’s whereabouts through covert operations. They may monitor their comings and goings, keep watch on their house or place of work, and even record phone conversations and check mail. Furthermore, private investigators could use sophisticated technology or subversive means to try and locate an individual whose whereabouts are unknown or who have gone off-grid.

What many people do not know about private investigators, however, is that they have legal obligations, and are prohibited from using certain methods to track individuals. The below information provides insight into this subject.      

What Tracking Can Private Investigators Use In The UK?

As mentioned above, private investigators and detectives can utilise a range of different methods to track an individual’s whereabouts. Some of these methods are listed below:

– GPS Tracking: This involves a GPS device being tagged to a vehicle or person which then sends data back to a GPS server about their movements and physical location.

– Word of mouth: This is the most basic and often effective method; simply speaking to relatives, friends and co-workers. People often divulge information unwittingly to a skilled private investigator. This can be a fantastic help in tracking someone down and/or monitoring their behaviour.

– Private databases: P.I’s and detectives have access to state of the art databases that provide up to date information about people’s whereabouts – tangible information that they can use to track someone down. This type of service is not readily available to the public as it is either too costly, or under certain restrictions to its access.

Skills and techniques such as the above are tricks of the trade and are developed during an investigator’s career. A private detective will use whatever legal means necessary to track an individual’s whereabouts and they usually have many tools at their disposal to achieve their ends, leading to a high success rate.

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What Legal Acts and Bills Govern Private Investigation?


The UK government has passed numerous acts and bills that regulate private investigation. Several of these acts curtail the powers of investigators and prohibit them from using certain tracking methods. The most notable of these in recent history are the Regulation in Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and the more recent Investigatory Powers Act 2016 nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter.

Regulation in Investigatory Powers Act 2000

This act passed in parliament in July 2000 aims to regulate the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and communications interception. The bill detailed various powers that public agencies and organisations could use in cases of national security such as wire taps, reading the post and covert human intelligence.

Investigatory Powers Act 2016

This act passed in 2016 gave new powers to investigation agencies such as allowing them access to internet records and ISP documentation. Furthermore, this act actually created a criminal offence for illegally accessing internet data. Furthermore, this act requires CSP (communication service providers) to cooperate with investigations and provide data if requested.


Do Private Investigators in The UK Need A License?


As you can see, investigators must follow procedures and their actions are regulated by the government. Investigators must also acquire a licence if they wish to operate legally and track an individual’s whereabouts. The government operated SIA (Security Industry Authority) is responsible for the distribution of these licenses and an investigator must pass stringent tests in order to obtain one.

Investigators are not above the law and they must have a licence and follow regulations when tracking an individual’s whereabouts.



*Our content is not designed to constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice we always recommend contacting a qualified legal professional and are happy to provide recommendations*

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