Private investigators who conduct surveillance are often sued by the people they have watched. Examples of “watching” include:

  • Watching persons or activities from a fixed location such as from an unmarked van in a motel parking lot.
  • Tailing persons on foot or from a motor vehicle, aircraft or sea craft.
  • Photographing/videographing persons overtly and covertly.
  • Tracking the movement of persons with a GPS device.
  • Listening to or recording conversations with and without electronic devices.
  • Pre-texting such as pretending to be someone else in order to elicit information.
  • Revealing personal data that were obtained in pre-employment screening.


The right to “watch” and the right to be “left alone” are opposites. Interference with the right to be “left alone” is often called an intrusion or infliction of emotional distress. A tort (civil law violation) can be claimed when one person (the private investigator) intrudes upon the mental tranquility or peace of mind of another person (the target of the surveillance). A person has a basic right to choose when and to what extent he will permit others to know his personal affairs.