The Home Office has backed down over plans to give a wide range of government agencies and local authorities access to telephone, internet and email records.
Details of a consultation paper leaked to The Guardian reveal that the number of agencies with access to the data will now be limited.
Those which would have got access to private electronics communications data included seven Whitehall departments, every local authority in the country, NHS authorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and 11 agencies including the Postal Services Commission and the Food Standards Agency.
At the moment only the police, intelligence services and the Inland Revenue have this power.
Pressure from civil liberties groups and internet service providers has forced a rethink of the policy.
Home Secretary David Blunkett will now limit the power to five bodies, all of which have a serious crime-fighting role.
According to The Guardian, only the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency, the Serious Fraud Office, the UK Atomic Energy Authority, fire authorities (for investigating hoax calls and suspicious fires) and NHS trusts (for investigating hoax emergency calls) will be given the power to demand this data.
The consultation paper also includes a new criminal offence to prevent the misuse of data by officials.
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