Social media use auditing

In 2016 the Rt Hon Lord Judge, then Chief Surveillance Commissioner, wrote to all Local Authorities regarding use of social media in investigations. Please confirm whether you are aware you received this letter and:

(a) Provide a copy of your response; (please confirm if you did not respond)

Devon County Council (DCC) received this letter, however, we did not respond as a response was not asked for.

(b) Provide a copy of any internal audit relating to social media use arising out of Rt Hon Lord Judge’s recommendations; (please confirm if you did not conduct an internal audit and state whether any internal audit of social media use has taken place since 2016). 

No internal audits of social media use by Devon Audit Partnership have taken place since 2016, therefore we do not hold this information.

(c) Provide a copy of your corporate policy on the use of social media in investigations. (please confirm if you do not have one)

Investigations that undertake surveillance of an individual must comply with the council’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act Policy RIPA

(d) Please confirm whether a follow up audit was conducted by the Surveillance Commissioner’s Office which was exclusively or partially related to social media use in investigations by your Local Authority.

The last RIPA inspection by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner was in 2015. Its successor organisation IPCO inspected DCC in August 2019 and considered Authorisations regarding covert social media activity.

2. Does your Local Authority conduct overt and/or covert social media intelligence in some or all of its work?

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards conduct overt and covert social media activity for the purpose of enforcing consumer protection and other Trading Standards legislation.

Devon Audit Partnership do not use social media in this way. Devon County Council employees are aware of their Data Protection rights and obligations. If it was considered that Social Media could and should be used to monitor, profile or investigate individuals then an assessment would be completed to determine if this was overt or covert, and if a RIPA authorisation would be required.

(a) If yes, please specify whether this includes profiling individuals, conducting investigations, monitoring individuals, monitoring groups, monitoring locations, gathering intelligence, for recruitment purposes.

For Trading Standards this may include profiling individuals, conducting investigations, monitoring groups, monitoring individuals and gathering intelligence but not monitoring locations or for recruitment purposes.

(b) If your Local Authority does conduct social media intelligence/monitoring, please specify whether this includes both or either overt or covert monitoring of social media.

Please see the responses to Q2 and Q2 a.

(c) If the Local Authority has conducted covert social media monitoring, please confirm the number of RIPA warrants obtained in the last two years for this purpose.


3. If the Local Authority conducts social media intelligence, please provide a copy of any current guidance/policies/internal guidance/code of practice or any other such written material used by/available to the local authority or those working on behalf of the local authority to conduct SOCMINT, the monitoring or accessing of information published on social media that is either publicly available or requires additional access e.g. to be friends with an individual, to have password and login details.

We have regard to the published Home Office Codes of Practice on Covert Surveillance and Covert human intelligence Sources

4. If you conduct overt or covert social media intelligence relating to social media platforms, please provide a copy of:
(a) Relevant [sections of the] privacy policy;- Devon Audit Partnership Privacy Notice 
(b) the data protection impact assessment; –we do not hold this information
(c) privacy impact assessment;- we do not hold this information.
(d) equality and human rights impact assessment –we do not hold this information

e) training materials for those conducting social media intelligence – we do not hold this information.

Please state if you do not have any of the above.

5. Please provide a copy of any other template/form/document currently used (or to be used with the next three months) by the local authority or fraud investigator (or team) in the conduct of social media monitoring

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act Policy outlines the process for obtaining authority for covert surveillance.

Template RIPA forms are available online. 

6. Please confirm whether or not your local authority has purchased or uses software and/or hardware to conduct social network / social media monitoring and/or in relation to sentiment analysis.(a) If yes, please state the name of the company / provider.

Yes – Orlo, however, this is in relation to public web channel usage and public feedback and not for the reasons outlined above.

(b) If no, please state whether the local authority has developed internal methods to conduct social media / social network monitoring.

Please see the response to the previous question.

7. Please confirm, if not stated in the guidance (question 3), the policy on deletion of data obtained from social networking sites.

Information should be held in accordance with the council’s retention schedules. Retention policy applies to the meaning and nature of information not to the format or location.

8. If no documents (question 3) exist, or if the following is not covered in the documents which do exist, please explain:
a. In what areas of the local authority’s work is social media monitoring used
b. What criteria must be satisfied in order for social media monitoring to be carried out
c. Who must authorise the request to conduct social media monitoring
d. What is the process for conducting social media monitoring
e. How long is data collected and retained?
f. Is there any process for requesting deletion?

Any covert surveillance must comply with the council’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act Policy.

9. Are you able to state how regularly social media monitoring is used? If so, please provide the figures.