What is it?
Protected information means any electronic information which, without a key, cannot be accessed, accessed readily or put into an intelligible form. Public authorities can seek permission to serve a notice requiring individuals, organisations or associations to provide a key to allow access to or decryption of this information.
Basis in law
Under section 49 (1) (b) of RIPA Part III public authorities may request permission to serve a notice on an individual, an organisation or an association to provide a key to protected data in the interests of national security, to prevent and detect crime, for the economic well-being of the United Kingdom or for the proper exercise of one of their statutory functions.
Where a Secretary of State approves the issue of a notice by the intelligence agencies or MOD under section 49 for information obtained by any method other than communications data or interception, the Intelligence Services Commissioner would have oversight of that decision. He would also have oversight of the handling arrangements in place to deal with any information obtained under such a notice.
How it is authorised
The section 49 (1)(b) notices the Commissioner would oversee would be issued personally and in writing by a Secretary of State. Urgent oral permission could also be given by a Secretary of State but the application would be signed by a senior official.
Applications for authorisation under section 49 must give proper consideration to necessity and proportionality. It must be proportionate to what is sought to be achieved and not reasonably practicable to obtain the information in intelligible form without such a notice.
Last updated: 23 Jan 16
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