Discretion and the Private Investigator

What is discretion? How does discretion affect you, the client? How should a private investigator use discretion? Let's dive right into the meanings of the word and how it applies to what private investigators should do.

The word discretion has 2-3 meanings, depending on your source of information.

The first definition of discretion means the quality of being discreet, avoid causing offense or reveal private information.

The second and third are similar; the ability to make a wise choice or decision and the freedom to make one's own judgement.


It would seem to me that the act of maintaining client confidentiality would go without saying. But, the fact is that 8 out of 10 clients ask me if I am "discreet". It usually is framed within a statement that goes something like this..."Obviously I don't want them to know, are your services private?"

I get this question now more than ever. I believe that this day in time, more people actually are in greater trepidation of who to trust than ever before. So it is a completely fair question and I am glad I get asked.

I treat every case with the utmost respect and confidentiality. In my agency, generally speaking, I am the only one to know who my clients are, even if I assign the matter to an investigator. They never know who I am working for. They only know that they are assigned a specific task and I even go as far in most cases as to change the name of the subject we may be watching if it is surveillance oriented.

We also respect that your private matter should not be dinner table fodder. I don't speak about my clients in any specifics. Your private investigation is just that...a private inquiry.

I also maintain no paper records and all of our information is completely encrypted.

There is no substitute for maintaining client confidentiality. Either a private investigator is disciplined in this manner or not. There is no in-between. I pride myself on maintaining a strictly need to know basis for all my private clients.


Discretion is also the use of ones own judgement or freedom of choice. Clients entrust their private investigator to use a lot of discretion in the course of their investigation and this should not be taken with a grain of salt.

Clients depend upon our judgement in handling difficult investigations. They want us to act on their behalf with their best interest in mind. Therefore, using our own judgement becomes usual and customary during a private investigation.

When using our discretion, it is important to always keep in mind our clients end goal. Also, it is important to act judiciously when faced with decisions with clients budget and time frame to accomplish the investigative task.

Prudent use of our clients money and sensitivity to the matter undertaken can help us to use discretion when making a judgement call during an investigation.

I respect your need and want for privacy and are silent when it comes to the specifics of any case we undertake treating it with delicacy and respect.