The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)

RIPA is the law governing the use of covert techniques by public authorities.

It requires that when public authorities – such as the police or government departments – need to use covert techniques to obtain private information about someone, they do it in a way that is necessary, proportionate, and compatible with human rights.

When RIPA applies

RIPA applies to a wide-range of investigations in which private information might be obtained.

Cases in which it applies include:

  • terrorism
  • crime
  • public safety
  • emergency services

What RIPA does

RIPA's guidelines and codes apply to actions such as:

  • intercepting communications, such as the content of telephone calls, emails or letters
  • acquiring communications data – the ‘who, when and where’ of communications, such as a telephone billing or subscriber details
  • conducting covert surveillance, either in private premises or vehicles (intrusive surveillance) or in public places (directed surveillance)
  • the use of covert human intelligence sources, such as informants or undercover officers
  • access to electronic data protected by encryption or passwords

Codes of practice and forms

Before a person representing a public authority makes an application under RIPA, they should download and read the appropriate codes of practice.

They can then download the forms needed to make an application.

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