Interception of Communications Commissioner Paul Kennedy said the statistics he compiled indicated that councils, police and other public bodies are seeking access to British residents' private telephone and e-mail records almost 1,400 times per day, The Daily Telegraph reported Monday.
The newspaper said Kennedy reviews requests made under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which was established as a safeguard against terrorism and organized crime. His report indicated that a total of 504,073 such requests were made last year, with a vast majority coming from police and security services. But 123 local councils also made 1,553 requests for communications data, seeking lists of the telephone numbers that residents dialed.
The Telegraph said local councils have recently been accused of using the powers for such trivial matters as littering and dog control.
"It cannot be a justified response to the problems we face in this country that the state is spying on half a million people a year," Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, told the newspaper. "We have sleepwalked into a surveillance state but without adequate safeguards."