EPIC challenges attorneys’ use of private investigators

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has been relentlessly hammering Congress and various regulatory bodies to outlaw pretexting and the sale of telephone subscriber information. EPIC is now trying to bring the American Bar Association and state Bar associations under their sway. In their letter to the Bar associations EPIC says that lawyers, via hired private investigators who engage in pretexting for any purpose, have committed an unethical act, in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

We believe that attorneys who hire investigators or other companies to engage in pretexting violate ethical norms.

The pressure is being applied by EPIC on public and private entities – through legal, legislative and regulatory channels – to restrict any method of information gathering that isn’t specifically allowed by law which they consider to be a violation of personal privacy.

We request that appropriate action be taken to ensure that attorneys in your state are not employing investigators or other companies to engage in pretexting or other fraud.

I previously cited an article in The National Law Journal that identified attorneys as the primary purchasers of telephone call records. The claimed motivation for these purchases are not ones I’ve ever heard of. It sounds more underworld than real world – where PIs are mostly investigating fraudulent insurance claims or finding witnesses to a court action.

These attorneys include divorce lawyers, who want to know who feuding spouses are talking to; business lawyers, who want to know who their clients’ competitors are talking to; and employment lawyers, who want to know if employees are selling any trade secrets.

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