Not all information brokers are criminals

Information brokers are all criminals and have nothing to do with the private investigation industry – according to a statement released by the Association of British Investigators (ABI).

A rather surprising and sweeping over-simplistic and incorrect statement made by the UK’s longest running PI association – a statement that is bound to ruffle the feathers of many people amongst the wide array of professionals that operate throughout the various information providing industries such as credit reference agencies which gather, repackage and sell information to those who have a legitimate need of it.

The arrests of the two men by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is no doubt a welcome result, however, these two men are not information brokers as suggested by the ABI, they are in fact criminals – ‘black hat’ computer hackers and fraudsters that were targeting people in order to steal their identities and credit card details. If you read the article on the SOCA website you can see that they are referred to as being involved in hacking, fraud and money laundering. The difference is clear and apparent, professional information brokers like professional investigators, do not indulge in criminality.

‘Information brokers’, or to be more accurate, ‘information retrieval consultants’ provide valuable legitimate research and information gathering services to clients. Other examples of information brokers include:  credit and business information services, competitive intelligence agencies, due diligence investigators and marketing professionals who all gather information, analyse it, repackage it and resell it to clients.

Private investigators, like information brokers are in the information collection business; there is no getting away from that fact. However, there will always be PIs that are rogue operators who will do anything if it pays well enough. Like the private investigation industry there is always going to be a minority of rogue ‘information brokers’ that let the side down by using questionable or even illegal methods in order to obtain secret, confidential or restricted information to which they have no right.

There is no doubt that the Leveson enquiry has shone a bright light on the trade in illegally obtained personal information and the ABI is trying desperately to distance its members from this illegal trade. However, in this age of internationally networked computers there happens to be a whole array of businesses, including the private investigation industry, that are built around the activities of gathering, analyzing, repackaging and disseminating lawfully obtained publicly available information to those that have need of information products – therefore, to label all information brokers as criminals is disingenuous, grossly unfair and very misleading…

Not all information brokers are criminals.