Besides criminal investigation, there are other kinds of investigation: journalism investigation, insurance investigation, social worker investigation, etc. Due to the nature of investigation, sometimes the subjects shouldn't know that they are investigated, i.e. cannot give informed consent to allow investigation on them. Furthermore, the investigator may also need to lie or pretend to be a neutral person or even a trust one. They may even have to put secret recorder. I wonder what is the limit of them? How are they regulated? Should the government make specific laws for each occupation, and thus if you don't have a license to do such job, you are not allowed to investigate?

I live in Vietnam, if that matters.

  • You need to know where it is located and be a bit more specific about the nature of the investigation. There is immense variation in regulation by jurisdiction (i.e. by state or country) and by type of investigation and different kind of techniques are regulated differently. There is no comprehensive answer and I am voting to close the question as too broad as it is written.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 11, 2020 at 22:17
  • what is the difference between jurisdiction and law in a specific area? My interest is whether undercover investigation violates any thing, like informed consent or privacy. The investigator may also need to lie or pretend to be a neutral person or even a trust one. Since this seems to be basic human right issue, I suppose this kind of regulation is universal?
    – Ooker
    Nov 12, 2020 at 6:36
  • 2
    @Ooker, no, that isn't universal. There is a declaration of fundamental human rights, but that is just a declaration, each country/state which abides by it (or pretends to abide by it) has to pass legislation to implement it. First you have to tell us what country you're in. Laws in the US differ from those in the UK or China. Then you might have to tell us what state you're in, laws in California differ from those in Florida.
    – o.m.
    Nov 13, 2020 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


Obviously this depends on the specific jurisdiction.

  • Social workers tend to be government employees with specific rights and duties set down in the relevant laws and regulations.
  • Journalists tend to be freelancers or employees of news companies. They might have specific protections under freedom of the press laws, e.g. the right to protect their sources from official inquiries, but generally they have no investigative rights which ordinary people do not have as well. They go in public spaces, they observe, they ask questions, they draw conclusions. Depending on the jurisdiction, going "undercover" might open them to fraud charges.
  • Insurance investigators, and generally private detectives, are often subject to special laws and regulations, but again these laws often do not allow them things ordinary people cannot do. Private investigators might find it easier than other citizens to get a gun carry license.

Start by reading the wikipedia article on private investigators.

  • do observation, surveying require consent and/or full disclosure on what you intend to do?
    – Ooker
    Nov 15, 2020 at 10:33
  • @Ooker, that depends on the jurisdiction and details. Observation may be legal, or it may be limited by privacy and anti-stalking laws.
    – o.m.
    Nov 15, 2020 at 10:35

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