In the past I have found out that clients were being spied on. This happened twice; in both times I told them. And in both times I got burned for it. I have no regrets and I got a clear conscience. However, I am about to go telling for the third time, so I just have to ask about this. First, some background.
The first time, I pointed out to our liaison within the client company some spying devices we had found in their offices. We found those while mapping their wired infrastructure. They freaked out and told us to remove those devices immediately (they were afraid of industrial espionage). A couple days later someone higher ups in the client demanded compensation for stealing their equipment. Turns out one corporate level was being spied on by another level higher up, without the lower level knowing so. This led to a huge mess. They accused us of stealing the devices but we didn't keep them, we handed those to the police. Seems like a couple of those were illegal just to own. Lots of meetings to explain things to everybody, we almost didn't get paid, and we never got a contract with that client again.
The second time was worse. We were changing the whole wiring of a client's apartment (data, power and phone lines), when we found lots of spying devices of such sophisfication as we had not seen before. The client was away from home, traveling. I emailed him pictures of some of the devices, and he replied telling us to destroy them. Emphasis on destroy. When we stepped out of the apartment we were all arrested. The client was being spied on by the federal police (who had men watching outside the apartment for any suspicious activity). We don't have terrorist threats in Brazil, this guy was most probably being watched on due to involvement with white collar crime (he's a polictician). Still, it was a hellish situation, which took a lot of time, red tape and lawyers to get out of.
Back to present, and in another client's apartment. There was an AC socket which we thought was on a line completely disconnected from the main electric bus, yet we could read the signal from the device we use to map wires coming out of there. Usually this means the wires are not properly connected to the socket. When we opened it, there was a really small camera there. We just left it there this time.
I'd like to tell the client. I neither can nor want to imagine why someone would want to spy on her. I'd really like to dismiss it as just a case of a suspicious husband, which is common around here. If it is the federal police again, me and the staff can get into some real trouble - but I have talked to them, and we all feel our conscience weighting on us.
Is there some sensible approach for these kinds of situations? What are the ethics involved in such cases?