FAQs

The role of IPCO

Is IPCO part of the UK Government?

No. IPCO is an Arm’s Length Body of the Home Office and led by a member of the senior judiciary. Although the IPC was created by the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, they independently oversee the use of investigatory powers and submit an annual report of findings to the Prime Minister.

How do you ensure you are up-to-date with the latest technology developments?

The Investigatory Powers Commissioner (IPC) and Judicial Commissioners (JCs) are advised by an independent Technology Advisory Panel (TAP). Members of the TAP can advise the IPC and JCs on the impact of changing technology and the development of techniques in the use of investigatory powers while minimising privacy interference.

IPCO’s inspectors, legal team, policy team and communications team also regularly engage with external stakeholders, speaking at forums and attending roundtables, to keep up-to-date with any changes in technology that may impact their work.

What is OCDA and how is it connected to IPCO?

The Office for Communications Data Authorisations (OCDA) considers requests for communications data from law enforcement and public authorities. Communications data (CD) is the who, where, when and how of a communication but not the content.

The IPA builds on, and supersedes parts of, the Regulations of Investigatory Powers Act. The IPA has granted law enforcement and public authorities updated powers to access CD for legitimate purposes.

OCDA was established in 2019. OCDA carries out the important function of safeguarding an individual’s right to privacy under the Human Rights Act 1998. OCDA makes independent decisions on whether to grant or refuse communications data requests, ensuring that all requests are lawful, necessary and proportionate.

The Investigatory Powers Commissioner is responsible for authorising CD requests. He acts through OCDA for these purposes and he is the head of the organisation.

OCDA began processing applications from public authorities on 26 March 2019.

Who works at IPCO and how do I find out about job opportunities?

IPCO employs approximately 50 people with a diverse range of backgrounds and experience. Staff include inspectors, lawyers, communications experts and others. More information can be found on our ‘who we are’ page.

We do not currently have any vacancies available. When we do, details will be available on our Careers page and on the Civil Service Jobs website.

I need help

I am concerned that my rights have been breached, what do I do?

If you are concerned that you have been a victim of unlawful action by a public authority using covert investigative techniques, such as investigatory powers, you can register a complaint with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

Information about how to file a complaint can be found here on their website.

I am concerned about a police officer’s behaviour towards me, what do I do?

Police conduct is not under IPCO’s remit. If you are a member of the public who are concerned about the behaviour of the police, you should direct this to the Independent Office of Police Conduct.

Will IPCO provide further information upon request?

IPCO is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. However, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner has a specific requirement to make certain information public, as set out in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner will provide information about their work through an Annual Report which is laid in Parliament by the Prime Minister and published on the IPCO website.

The Investigatory Powers Commissioner may, at his discretion, also share information in other contexts, where this is appropriate, permitted under the Investigatory Powers Act and is consistent with the discharge of his statutory responsibilities, including the safeguarding of national security.

How can I find out if a public authority has authorised the use of covert powers to obtain my communications data, or conduct surveillance upon me?

The Data Protection Act 1998 gives individuals the right to apply for access to personal data relating to them. This is known as a “subject access request”. However, under the exemption provision in section 28 of the Data Protection Act, requests for information may be declined in cases where it is necessary to safeguard national security.

Once an application has been considered, IPCO does not store any personal information relating to subjects of covert surveillance. If a person has reason to believe they may have been subject to the use of investigatory powers they should make application to the relevant public authority, using the provisions of the DPA, and noting the exemption under section 28.

How do I submit a research request for information or an interview?

Academic requests can be submitted by completing a research request form.

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