The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) enables the Council to use covert surveillance; covert human intelligence sources (CHIS); and the acquisition of service use or subscriber information in relation to communications data in a manner that is compatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights governing an individual’s right to respect for their private and family life, home and correspondence.
There are various criteria which must be met, including a ‘seriousness threshold’ for the use of directed surveillance, and any requests by the Council to use the RIPA powers must be approved by a Magistrate, under the current legislation.
Local authorities are sparing users of RIPA legislation and North East Derbyshire District Council has not used them since 2012.
The Council has been periodically inspected by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners which has been superseded by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO). Inspections of local authorities are scheduled for every three years, the latest inspection having taken place in 2022.
Use of Social Media
Online communication has become the preferred method of communication with other individuals, within social groups or with anyone in the world with internet access. Such communication may involve websites, social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and/or web based electronic mail.
The IPCO guidance states that:-
“The Internet is a surveillance device as defined by RIPA section 48(1).
Surveillance is covert ‘if, and only if’ it is conducted in a manner that is calculated to ensure that persons who are subject to the surveillance are unaware that it is, or may be, taking place.’ Knowing that something is
happening is not the same as an awareness that it is or may be taking place.”
Where a proposed investigation does not relate to an activity that meets the crime threshold for obtaining court authorisation under RIPA, the Council follows a similar procedure for assessment, evidencing necessity / proportionality with internal Authorising Officer review (although without the involvement of a Magistrate).
Further information can be found in the Council’s RIPA policy.