'The Right to Privacy and Private Detective Activities in Lithuania' by Mindaugas Bilius in (2012) 5(2) Baltic Journal of Law & Politics 1 comments that
Private detectives have been providing their services in Lithuania for about a decade; however, only now has the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania started to discuss whether it is expedient and necessary to regulate the activities of private detectives by means of a separate law. One of the goals of a separate legal regulation of private detective activities is the protection of human rights, particularly the right to privacy. This article examines the provisions of national and international legislative acts related to the private life of a person, and assesses the opportunities of a private detective to provide private detective services without prejudice to the provisions of applicable legislative acts. The article concludes that a private detective is not an authorized (public) authority and there is no possibility to assess in each case whether the interests of a person using the services of private detectives are more important than those of other persons, which would allow for violating their rights to private life. The limits of an individual’s right to privacy can only be narrowed by a particular person, giving consent to making public the details of his/her private life. It is the only opportunity for a private detective to gather information related to the private life of a citizen. Currently applicable legislative acts in Lithuania do not provide for opportunities for private subjects to collect personal data without that person’s consent. This right is granted only to public authorities and with the court’s permissionBilius argues that
In the absence of a unified regulatory policy in the area of private detective activities, each nation-state must make an individual decision as to whether private detective activities should be legally regulated separately from other services, and if so – what are the legal measures that would help protect consumer rights, reduce the number of violations of law, and at the same time would not cause unreasonable constraints to those seeking to undertake private detective activities.
Private detective activities cannot be treated as a typical commercial service. Private detective activities differ from the usual provision of services and are characterized by attributes specific to them only, inasmuch as investigative services provided are related to the collection of information, and the information collected can often transcend the boundaries of private lives of individuals. Private detective activities are characterized by the fact that, when providing the service, an investigation aimed at obtaining information of interest to the client is carried out upon the client’s request. Similar services can be provided by public authorities as well; however, in this case, private detective activities are characterized by the fact that a subject providing this service is a private person, whose activities are aimed at profit. Investigation on behalf of another person makes private detective activities different from activities involving employment relations, where investigation can be carried out for the benefit of an employer; however, the results are not provided to third parties for a fee. Moreover, private detective activities are major commercial activities undertaken by a person. The primary aim of providing investigatory services to clients is to protect rights and property interests of these persons. Thus, individuals undertaking private detective activities should have certain skills that would enable them to provide services to clients properly, without prejudice to the rights of others. Private detective activities are also characterized by the fact that the main control of these activities is carried out by a consumer; however, ways in which information that is of interest to the client is collected are usually uncontrolled. Global practice shows that most private detectives have worked in the public law enforcement sector, and services provided by them are related to the area of law enforcement; therefore, to make proper use of the assistance provided by such individuals in ensuring public safety and crime prevention, it is expedient to provide for the proper forms and ways of use of services of private detectives in meeting the needs of both individuals and the state. These arguments must be taken into account when providing for regulatory guidelines for private detective activities in Lithuania. It should be noted that, in the absence of legal regulation of private detective activities, anybody, including former police officers, members of organized criminal groups or any other person who does not have similar work experience, will be able to carry out an investigation, orders of banks, insurance companies, financial institutions, corporate entities without any control, regardless of the nature, ethical aspects of the order, and without any assessment of legitimacy of the provision of services.
The country has established various ways to regulate private relationships. Broadly speaking, such regulation can be understood as the establishment of certain prohibitions to carry out activities without a permit or license, or a requirement to carry out activities in accordance with the relevant legislative acts. Such activities of the government are regarded as the state’s intervention in the economics. Usually, those who are subjected to regulation tend to raise questions as to additional burden on business and the lack of accountability of those who regulate the relationships; whereas, the latter ground the necessity of legal regulation on the purposes of reduction of violations of law. Therefore, when establishing guidelines for private detective activities in Lithuania, it is necessary to provide for such requirements, the stringency of which would be based in proportion to the attainability of the objectives pursued. The most economically beneficial way requiring the least intervention from the state is possible when the issues of private detective activities are left for self-regulation. Although self- regulation is generally more operative than the usual legal regulation, it is not formalized in detail: rules are changed with expedition, market changes are adapted to. However, it is assumed that this method is currently not suitable in Lithuania for several reasons. First of all, the number of private detectives working in Lithuania is rather small, their competency is not known. Second, in case of self- regulation, the content of decisions can be affected by the existing commercial interests, anti-competitive agreements are possible. Thus, it is believed that private detective activities in Lithuania should be regulated by means of an interference of the state, where legislative acts would establish the capacity of private detectives and provide for supervision of such activities. State intervention aimed at regulating private detective activities by means of separate legislative act is necessary for several reasons. First, private detectives working in Lithuania today offer services, the provision of which is impossible without violations of human rights. Thus, the adopted law would set out the list of services that can be provided by private detectives, which would allow for avoiding the provision of services that are in conflict with legislative acts. Accordingly, private detective activities can be undertaken by any person, regardless of education or knowledge of the law. In this case, it would be erroneous to think that in provision of private detective services these persons will follow the requirements of legislative acts, in particular those that govern the issues of respect for private life. Legal regulation of private detective activities is moreover necessary for the protection of consumer rights, so that a client applying to a private detective for his services could be sure that private detective has at least the minimum competencies necessary to perform the task. Accordingly, when applying to a private detective for the provision of services, he may be entrusted with important or personal data; therefore, granting the access to such data for persons related to criminal groups or those who have previous convictions for certain crimes, may lead to the use of data for criminal purposes. To obtain assistance from private detectives in the fight against crime or in the prevention of crime, it is necessary to deal with the issues of mutual cooperation of private detectives and public officials by law, in order to avoid situations, where, in collecting evidence for a case, private detectives may interfere with pre-trial investigation. For all of already stated reasons, private detective activities should be regulated by means of a separate law.Bilius concludes
The existing situation in Lithuania, where private detective activities can be provided by any person, raises the question of whether such activities should be subject to a separate legal regulation due to the potential threat of violations of human rights, particularly the right to private life. Unlike usual commercial activities, private detective activities pose a greater threat to human rights for a variety of reasons: private detective services are closely related to the collection of information that is of interest to the client of a private detective. The collection of information involves a great risk that such information can be related to private lives of individuals protected by both national and international legislative acts. In Lithuania, private detectives can provide a variety of services, including the assistance to persons in various legal disputes; however, the collection of information related to private lives of individuals is rather restricted. Inasmuch as it is impossible to give an accurate definition of a private life of an individual, determining a violation of respect for a private life of an individual in each case requires the assessment of specific factual circumstances.
The right of an individual to private life is not absolute. This right may be interfered with in order to protect other rights. However, in regard to private detective activities, private detectives are not authorized persons and it is impossible to determine in each case, whether the interests of a person using the services of the private detective are more important than those of other persons, which could lead to violations of their right to private life. The limits of an individual’s right to private life can be narrowed only by a specific person, by way of giving consent or making the circumstances of his private life publicly available. This is the only possibility for a private detective to collect information related to an individual’s private life. The existing legislative acts in Lithuania do not provide for a possibility for private subjects to collect personal data without the consent of the relevant person. Such right is granted only to public authorities and with the court’s permission.
The lack of an accurate definition of a private life requires private detectives to have appropriate knowledge in this area, in order to avoid violations of this right due to improper education or competency of a private detective. At the same time, the state has a duty to take measures to ensure respect for and protection of human rights. Accordingly, the development of modern technologies, allowing for the use of various methods and means for the collection of information, encourages governments to amend the existing regulation in this area. Lithuania is no exception. It aims at adopting a law governing private detective activities. This is to be regarded as a timely and positive step, inasmuch as the country takes action prior to the occurrence of a number of violations of legislative acts caused by the unregulated private detective activities.