The government has revived controversial plans that will require network operators to log all user activity, including phone calls, emails and website visits.
Under the scheme, Internet service and telecommunications providers will hold all of this data for an unspecified period of time. It will be available to police in the interest of preventing "terror-related" crime.
The Interception Modernisation Programme was originally proposed by the previous Labour administration. Prior to this year’s general election, coalition partners the Liberal Democrats had pledged to abandon the scheme.
Last year, the government estimated that the project would cost network operators £2 billion.
Its revival was announced as part of the government’s strategic defence and security review published earlier this week. No time frame was set out for the programme’s introduction.
The review reads: "We will introduce a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain communication data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework.
"This programme is required to keep up with changing technology and to maintain capabilities that are vital to the work these agencies do to protect the public."
Lobby group No2ID has opposed the measure, claiming it erodes consumer privacy: "We should not be surprised that the interests of bureaucratic empires outrank liberty," said general secretary Guy Herbert. "It is disappointing that the new ministers seem to be continuing their predecessors’ tradition of credulousness."