Public bodies, including health authorities, could be able to access information about all personal calls and internet use under proposals from the Home Office.
The department has published a consultation paper that considers making logs of all telephone calls and internet usage, including e-mails and Voice over Internet Protocol calls, mandatory for at least 12 months.
Access to call and internet data would be available to all public bodies licensed under the 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), including health authorities.
These would only be able to be accessed for investigations into crime or other threats to public safety. In health this could include checking for previous complaints relating to cruelty, abuse or self-harm.
The Home Office said the measure would mean companies storing "a billion incidents of data exchange a day.” Details of traffic, but not the content, will have to be made available by telecommunications companies to public sector officials to investigate crime or to "protect the public.”
Because the consultation responds to an European directive, the data could also be made available to public investigators across Europe.
The consultation says systems like this have successfully been introduced in the USA though organisations such as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, which is dedicated to eradicating the sexual abuse of children.
The vast majority of CEOP’s work is by resolution of IP addresses, e-mail addresses and – increasingly – mobile phone numbers.
A Home Office spokesman told E-Health-Insider: "This data would allow investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time.
"It also gives investigators the potential to identify other forensic opportunities, identify witnesses and premises of evidential interest. Many alibis are proven or refuted through the use of communications data. Without the EC directive, investigative opportunities will be increasingly lost."
However, opposition MPs said the powers would result in Britain becoming a “snooping state.” Liberal Democrat’ home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, said: "We will be told it is for use in combating terrorism and organised crime, but if RIPA powers are anything to go by, it will soon be used to spy on ordinary people’s kids, pets and bins."
The consultation is open for responses until 31 October.