UK MPs warn against mass government surveillance of bank accounts

A group of UK MPs has tabled a parliamentary motion calling on the government to remove powers in a new bill that they say would result in the mass surveillance of tens of millions of people’s bank accounts.

The ‘Government surveillance of bank accounts’ early day motion has been sponsored by six Labour MPs and signed by another 23 members from various parties. It states that members are “deeply alarmed” by new powers contained in the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

The Bill, if passed, would require banks and building societies to proactively give information on account holders to the Department for Work and Pensions. Currently, the DWP can only check account data for people already under suspicion of fraud.

The motion says the new powers would “force banks to spy on the 23 million individuals in the welfare system, including those who are disabled, sick, caregivers, jobseekers and pensioners, as well as on the private banking data of people related to them including partners, parents, landlords and other associates”.

The MPs also say that the system would use AI to monitor accounts and flag suspicious activity, risking the creation of a “Post Office Horizon-style scandal where innocent people suffered wrongful prosecutions, financial ruin and reputational damage”. Government already has significant powers to review the bank statements of fraud suspects under existing laws, says the motion, which calls for the removal of the new powers from the bill.

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