Reports from the UK Telegraph say British authorities made more than 500,000 requests for confidential communications data in each of the past few years, "equivalent to spying on one in every 78 adults, leading to claims" that Brits "sleepwalked into a surveillance society."
The requests came under an Act allowing law enforcement to gain access to information on individuals who have phoned, emailed, used websites, etc. The legislation was originally enacted for the purpose of combating terrorism and serious crime.
Defenders of the UK Act, like those who tout the Canadian version, say the Act does not allow access to the content of communications, but only the 'traffic' (who you are speaking to, etc.).
The UK example highlights how easy it is for athorities to abuse this type of legislation – in some cases, access powers were used by British authorities to do more than snoop and demonstrates it is indeed a slippery slope. Care is, therefore, required to ensure the proper safeguards are in place before any expansion of police powers is allowed.
See the UK Information Commissioner's full report as well as a breakdown of some of the numbers.