Ministers want to expand the scope of UK surveillance laws to give more public authorities – including a pensions watchdog and the Environment Agency – the power to access vast databases of personal phone and computer data.
Five additional public bodies are to be allowed to obtain communications data under the Investigatory Powers Act – frequently dubbed the snooper’s charter – as they are “increasingly unable to rely on local police forces to investigate crimes on their behalf”, according to documents published by the government.
The US whistleblower Edward Snowden once described the act as the “most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy”.
The Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the armed police force in charge of protecting civil nuclear sites; the Environment Agency; the Insolvency Service; the UK National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping (UKNACE), an anti-espionage service and the Pensions Regulator are poised to benefit from strengthened powers.
The authorities join an established list that includes police forces, government departments and public agencies including the Health and Safety Executive.