The Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 makes it an offence for a person to interfere with wireless telegraphy or to use wireless telegraphy with the intent to obtain information as to the contents, sender or addressee of a message of which neither he nor a person on whose behalf he is acting is an intended recipient, without lawful authority.
Investigative activity by public authorities involving interference with property or wireless telegraphy is regulated by the Police Act 1997 and the Intelligence Services Act 1994, which set out the high level of authorisation required before law enforcement or the security and intelligence agencies can undertake such activity. The covert surveillance and property interference code of practice provides guidance on the use of these powers.
In addition, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 will regulate the interference with equipment for the purpose of obtaining communications, equipment data or any other information. These provisions will come into force later this year, and further guidance will be provided in a statutory code of practice.
The use of all covert investigatory powers is overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.
Ownership and operation of such devices by police forces and other public authorities is an operational matter for them.