What we do

At IPCO, we oversee the use of covert investigatory powers by more than 600 public authorities, including the UK’s intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, police, councils and prisons.

 

This means that we independently review applications from public authorities to use the most intrusive of these powers and check that all the powers are used in accordance with the law.

 

All of this work is overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.

 

We continually seek to understand new and developing technologies, operations and legislation to ensure that privacy is protected, safeguards are applied, and individual rights are maintained.

Inspections

We have a statutory obligation to inspect the use of investigatory powers as part of our oversight. At IPCO we therefore have a dedicated Inspectorate to oversee the use of investigatory powers by public authorities.

The double-lock

The “double-lock” refers to the review of applications by our Judicial Commissioners for warrants allowing public authorities to use the most intrusive investigatory powers. Unless empowered to authorise activities internally, authorities will submit applications to ministers or the Office for Communications Data Authorisations.

Errors

Potential cases of non-compliance are reported to us as “errors”. Each is assessed for its seriousness and, if applicable, will be investigated by an Inspector. We investigate both human and technical errors. Our findings inform policy changes, national training and product development to reduce or eliminate the risk of further occurrences.

Organisations we oversee

We oversee the use of covert powers by over 600 public authorities. The organisations can broadly be categorised into six groups: intelligence agencies; police and law enforcement agencies; local authorities; prisons; warrant granting departments; and other public authorities.

Working with others

At IPCO we regularly engage with a range of organisations including NGOs, academics, communications service providers, law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, local authorities and other public bodies. We are committed to the transparent oversight of the use of investigatory powers, subject to security restrictions.

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