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Volume 473: debated on Monday 17 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which forms of interception are subject to authorisation by a warrant from her. (191032)

All interceptions require authorisation by the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State will only approve an interception warrant if it is necessary in the interests of national security; preventing or detecting serious crime; or safeguarding the economic well-being of the UK. In addition, the interception needs to be proportionate and the information obtained not reasonably available by other means. Authorisations are governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). Interception relates to the content of a communication e.g. what is said in a phone call or written in an e-mail.

Communications data (CD), however, are data about communications and how they were made, but not what was said or written, and include: who participated in the communications; how the communication occurred (e.g. a telephone call, text message or e-mail message); when the communication happened (e.g. the date and time of the call and how long it lasted); where the participants in the communication were located when it took place (e.g. the location of the mobile phone which a text message was sent from and the location of the mobile phone which received the text message).