access to communications data can take place under the Regulation of
Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), was issued for public
consultation by the home office today.
The draft Code of Practice on Accessing Communications Data will
govern the conduct of law enforcement and public bodies when
obtaining information relating to the use of postal or
telecommunication services, for example telephone billing
RIPA updates and increases the safeguards on obtaining communications
data. In future, in order to obtain data an authorised person must
meet a test of necessity and consider the conduct involved to be
proportionate. Data may only be sought if necessary for specific
purposes. For example:
- in the interests of national security
- for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or preventing
- in the interests of public safety
Home office minister Bob Ainsworth said:
'Communications data can be an important tool in the fight against
serious crime, for example providing evidence or intelligence on the
activities of paedophiles or narcotics smugglers. It is vital that
law enforcement and other public bodies can access communications
data, ensuring that criminals do not have a technological advantage
over those trying to enforce the law.
'Equally, we must ensure that such access is proportionate to the
threat and highly regulated, and RIPA introduces, for the first time,
strong statutory safeguards to govern this. For an action to be
necessary in a democratic society it must pursue a legitimate policy
aim, fulfil a pressing social need and above all be proportionate to
that policy aim.
'As we implement the Act's provisions, we are working with
communication services providers to ensure that they are enacted in
partnership with them. Today's consultation reiterates our commitment
to consult in this important area. We welcome comments on all aspects
of this draft code from industry, law enforcement agencies and anyone
else who has a view on its implementation.'
The consultation period on the Code ends on 2 November 2001, and a
summary of responses will be published on the home office website (see below).
1. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act received royal assent
on 28 July 2000, with the major part of the legislation implemented
on 2 October 2000. Further parts are being enacted in consultation
with communication services providers over the coming months.
2. RIPA was introduced to ensure that the use of investigatory
powers such as covert surveillance by the law enforcement, security
and intelligence agencies are closely regulated and used in
accordance with the Human Rights Act and European Convention on
Human Rights. RIPA also updates current legislation on the use of
these powers by the law enforcement, security and intelligence
agencies to cover technologies which have been developed in recent
3. Copies of the Draft Code of Practice for Chapter II of Part I of
the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is available from
the home office website.
4. Communications data, eg telephone billing information, is an
essential tool in the fight against serious crime in the modern
communications environment, Later this year RIPA will be put this
access onto a formal, regulated footing.
5. Communications data does not include the contents of any
communication itself, and Chapter II Part I of RIPA governs access
only to communications data. For example, a list of telephone
numbers can be reasonably seen as just that and therefore is
defined as communications data, it does not give any indication of
what might have been said during a conversation.
6. What was said during a particular communication, eg a telephone
conversation, is defined as communications content - it remains
strict policy that the content of communications can only be
obtained under an interception warrant personally authorised by the
secretary of state. This principle is firmly reiterated in the
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.