Virtually Anything

Client/Investigator Privilege

Posted by collinsadmin on January 21, 2008

Investigative professionals and associations have very strict codes of ethics.  In general they are the same with a few additions and/or a few deletions but what seems to always remain the same is confidentiality. All investigative professionals whether it be private investigators, judgment recovery, bail enforcement agents, collections agencies, or repossessors have the obligation to provide client/investigator privilege. So where does the breach of client/investigator privilege end and normal everyday business begin?

Some would say unless the person who knows anything about the case is licensed in that field, it would be considered a breach of privilege.  This is a legally untenable position, which, if applied to all situations, would have the majority of professionals in trouble. It would eliminate the possibility of all of the following situations:

  • Unlicensed office secretaries, receptionists and assistants.
  • Unlicensed internet service providers.
  • Unlicensed photo developers.
  • Unlicensed sub-contractors of any kind.
  • Unlicensed computer repair techs. 

The standard consensus about breach of client privilege is, as long as somebody is doing work for the investigative professional, it is not a breach of confidentiality.  Sometimes business owners need to seek the help of outside professionals. It is both ethical, and good management to do so. The key is to select outsourcing professionals who are trustworthy, and who understand and respect the client confidentiality standard. 

Here are a few tips for increasing security when working with third party professionals:

  • Do a thorough background check on those whose services you utilize
  • Check references
  • Interview the person
  • Go with your gut feeling – often this is based on subtle, unexplainable reactions to body language, verbal inflection, or wording that you cannot pinpoint, but which all originate from legitimate informational sources.
  • Start with small tasks which are not highly sensitive. Work up to more confidential tasks as trust develops, and not before.
  • Create a good contract, which spells out your expected level of confidentiality, and their status as your representative for the tasks in question (so you have legal proof that they are acting on your behalf in the jobs in question). 

Ultimately, investigative professionals as well as other small business owners need to do their own due diligence before hiring anybody.  If the company being considered for hire won’t allow any type of “investigation”, run as fast as you can in the other direction.  If they won’t let potential clients do reasonable background checks (in relation to the confidentiality of the job in question) then they have something to hide.

Confidentiality is a serious issue. But the law provides for assistants and other helpers. Choose wisely, and your business can grow smoothly through any phase, even when the amount of work you need assistance with is small.

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