Banks and insurers are being warned about the overuse of vehicle tracking devices on customers cars

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Vehicle tracking devices 

Hundreds of companies in industries ranging from banking to insurance have been warned about the use of vehicle tracking device by private investigators.

In what is being called an unprecedented move, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has written to about 400 separate institutions and companies in a bid to tackle the illegal use of "tracking devices".

Tony Delaney who is the Assistant Data Protection Commissioner has given a warning to some of the country's best known companies that private investigators are attaching tracking devices to their customers' cars as part of covert surveillance activities.

Some of these 400 firms are also State bodies and the warning goes out to these private investigators that they face potential prosecution for illegal surveillance.

In some instances, insurance companies have actually handed over full medical or consultants' reports to private investigation firms to spy on customers.

Private investigators, who are also known as 'tracing agents' are now the subject of a rigorous and lengthy investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner.

Private investigators are placing these apy kits underneath people's vehicles, usually done under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night.

These devices are small in size and can be bought for as little as €200. They are then placed underneath the car and in virtually all cases the customer being tracked does not know.

How tracking devices work

The signal from the device is then sent back to a mobile phone application which can allow a private investigator trace the person's movements 24 hours a day. A report is then compiled and is sent back to the company or individual that availed of the investigator's services.

In many instances, the company who has commissioned the private investigation may not be aware of the precise type of surveillance being used by the private investigator they have hired.

Most companies are aware though, that placing a covert tracking device on a vehicle without the knowledge of the owner is in breach of data protection laws and could be

Mr Delaney confirmed that his letter was sent to firms involved in banking, insurance, financial services, as well as credit unions and bodies in the local government sector.

Mr Delaney said, "The purpose of this letter was, in the first instance, to alert them to the fact that some private investigators are attaching vehicle tracking devices to the vehicles of individuals on whom they are carrying out surveillance and secondly, to recommend actions that they should take in relation to it,"

"We strongly recommended that these entities should write to all private investigators that they currently use to put them on notice that the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has advised that such devices may only be used with the consent of the individual vehicle owner or driver who is the subject of surveillance that the use of such devices without appropriate consent should cease immediately and should not be repeated."

Companies which have been involved in such activities reserve the right to report any suspected cases to the Data Protection Commissioner or the Private Security Authority.

The Commissioner anticipates a number of successful prosecutions in 2017.



Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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