Last month, an investigation by the New Yorker magazine alleged that disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein used private detectives from two different firms to spy on women he had allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted. The New Yorker claimed that a private spy posed as a women’s rights advocate to get actor Rose McGowan to talk and secretly recorded the meetings. McGowan has accused Weinstein of rape although Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” all claims of non-consensual sex.
In Britain these sorts of methods have come to be associated with the Metropolitan Police and their undercover police officers. Officers in the Special Demonstration Squad and its successors pretended to be animal rights activists and anti-capitalist demonstrators to infiltrate activist organisations such as Greenpeace.
The revelations that some of them had long relationships and even children with protestors while living under assumed identities led to the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing, which is ongoing. However, some police say that there are far more questions to be asked about the activities of private sector undercover operatives.