In this post we will be looking at the definitions of the different types of surveillance and how RIPA affects it. First of all, let’s define covert surveillance: Covert meaning hidden and surveillance meaning watching or monitoring a person or thing with or without using technology as an aid.
This can be either by following them from a distance or by placing stationary recording devices in their home or office. The techniques for a covert surveillance operation are used in such a way that the subject of the surveillance does not know that they are being monitored.
There is a law governing surveillance, but not all surveillance. RIPA the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (non RIPA 2018 where applicable). It does not cover surveillance carried out by non-public bodies, such as private investigators. All reputable private investigators will operate within the guidelines of this act though because it does promote good practice.
RIPA provides a breakdown of types of surveillance:
- Directed Surveillance: Occurs when the subject of the investigation is observed photographed, or even videoed in a public place.
- Intrusive Surveillance: Is surveillance that is carried out in one particular location for example using a listening device in a home or office. It can also be describing the use of a vehicle tracking device that is secured to the subjects’ car or van.
- Covert Human Intelligence Sources: The name is a little less obvious but this is about using people to glean information. Most obviously this is utilised by the police when they use the services of an informant.
- Accessing Communications Data and Intercepting Communications: There is a difference between these two types of surveillance. Accessing communication data tells you whether a call was made or an email was sent and received into another account whereas intercepting communications means that the actual content of the verbal conversation or written word has been obtained.
It is thought that there will be new regulations introduced at some time this year to ensure that anyone involved in surveillance activities for private investigations will need to have a Security Industry Authority licence. This will provide specific and more relevant guidance to all those in this industry ensuring that as an industry we remain compliant with the Human Rights Act. It will not cover surveillance carried out with the subjects knowledge such as call recording in call centre environments and vehicle tracking devices on work vehicles as long as the employee knows that they are being monitored.