Investigators and Privacy in Australia

Private investigators and privacy in Australia – some facts ……. Private investigators perform a whole range of assignments on behalf of their clients and, as with any other citizen in Australia, must do so within the boundaries of the law. The assignments range from investigating insurance fraud and tracing debtors, to finding missing relatives and helping people with family disputes. Very often these investigations will require the client to obtain information such as records of conversations, addresses, and other personal details but there are strict guidelines on how a private detective can go about doing this.

General Information Protection

Australia has strict laws to protect personal information. The Privacy Act controls the revelation of personal information, unless specific exclusions apply. An organisation or a company cannot release personal information to a private investigator without a valid reason. The Act does specify a number of occasions when these exemptions apply, but even then the organisation can make a judgement on whether it feels the release of the information is appropriate for the situation. The end result is that an investigator has no right to demand information without a court order – it is up to the provider pf the information to make the assessment at that time.

There are times, however, when it is considered appropriate to release information. These would be occasions when disclosure falls within what are known as good information handling ideologies. The ideologies allow for the information to be given out if it is lawful and far, and not incompatible with the reasons that the information was collected for originally. e.g. if someone had been left money in a will, but their last known address was in Sydney and they had relocated, it would be considered reasonable for an employer to pass on their new address details as it is undoubtedly in the interests of that person for them to do so.

The directorial principle is that the individuals should be informed if it is being considered to release their information. The only time this principle could be ignored is if to do so might prejudice an investigation into something like insurance fraud. In these cases it is likely that legal endorsement has already been given due to the criminal nature of the investigation.

So the disclosure of information to private investigators without the knowledge of the person concerned is unlikely to occur unless there are very specific reasons that the law allows for. This does not stop certain private detectives from trying their luck and asking for the information when they are well aware that it should not be forthcoming in an attempt to make their own jobs easier, but the people providing the information should be aware that both they and the investigator may be breaking the privacy laws. The basic consideration is that in the absence of a court order, it is wise to seek advice before releasing any personal information.

Lipstick Investigations we will always work within the law, and make sure any information we gather is from legal sources – it is no good to a client if it has been obtained illegally.

If you have any questions about information access, email us at any time at and we can discuss your requirements free of charge.