Financial snooping powers will make our debanking crisis worse

Susannah Copson of Big Brother Watch examines the proposed plans to massively increase bank surveillance over our accounts


Under new plans proposed by this Government, our bank accounts are threatened by the prospect of unprecedented state-backed surveillance. This is not a sentence you might expect to read about a liberal democracy like the UK. However, Ministers are currently sneaking in a financial snooper’s charter that would enable the mass monitoring of everyone’s bank accounts under the premise of tackling welfare fraud - but at the expense of all of our privacy.

Under these powers, banks will be forced to monitor all accounts to identify ‘indicators’ of fraud and error. This is done with absolutely no grounds for suspicion - no court order is needed and you won’t be informed how your information is being used by either banks or DWP itself .

Anyone who receives benefits from DWP will be in the direct firing line, including the 10 million people on state pension. As universally issued welfare, pension fraud rates are naturally low, which begs the question - why is the Government attacking the privacy of millions of elderly people? Indeed, the surveillance isn’t constrained to people in the social security system. Anyone connected to accounts that are flagged by the secret criteria – be it a landlord, parents, or potentially even a business account – will have all of their personal accounts subject to intrusive monitoring.

Tackling fraud is a completely legitimate aim, but the Government already has an arsenal of powers to do this – powers that don’t encroach upon innocent people’s privacy. The creation of a system of automated surveillance, shrouded in secrecy, sets a dangerous precedent for unchecked government intrusion into our private affairs. There's no way to tell how future administrations could misuse such an intrusive and far-reaching power, but it is highly likely that such functionality would be repurposed, starting with HMRC and tax collection.

Financial privacy isn't just about bank statements—it's about safeguarding individual autonomy and freedom from undue state intrusion. Yet, the Government’s ambitions to create a mass financial surveillance system represents a significant threat to these liberties. Do we really want a government that can pry into our financial affairs without just cause?

These measures are part of a worrying trend of government overreach into our private lives and a more general assault on financial freedom. Coupled with the rise of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and ‘debanking’ trends, we risk moving towards being a society where every financial move is tracked and monitored by the state - a future none of us should accept.

These plans have been wedged in at a late stage to a the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill; a completely unrelated piece of legislation. As a result, MPs barely had the opportunity to scrutinise some of the most intrusive financial surveillance measures this country has ever seen. But when scrutinised by Members of the House of Lords earlier this month, peers savaged the plans for the dangerous assault on civil liberties that they are. The Powers will return for further debate in the Lords at report stage in the coming weeks .

The government should not be able to look into anyone’s bank account without very good reason, and we need to call these proposals out for what they are; a gross overreach of state authority. Our financial privacy is at stake, and we must defend it at all costs.


Susannah Copson is Legal and Policy Officer for Big Brother Watch