Public bodies such as local councils and health authorities could be given the right to snoop through records of internet activity under government proposals.
The Home Office plans, which were originally conceived in 2005 after the 7/7 London bombings, would see telecommunications companies made to keep details of internet traffic and VoIP calls for 12 months. The data would be made available to a number of public bodies during crime investigations and public safety threats. However, the proposal did stress that records of the content of the traffic would not be kept.
Dubbed the 'snooper's charter' by some MPs, the proposal will involve storing "a billion incidents of data exchange a day" and could cost taxpayers £46m.
Telecommunications companies already voluntarily store details of internet activity but the Government said it would now become mandatory thanks to a new European directive. It also released plans of a 'super' database that will contain all data on all telephone calls and internet activity.
"This data allows investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time," said a Home Office spokesman.
See also: Govt spends £18m snooping on emails and calls