270,000 people sign petitions urging Government to “stop bank spying” in response to new surveillance powers

Big Brother Watch Team / May 14, 2024

  • 270,000 people have signed petitions from Big Brother Watch and 38 Degrees, and Organise, urging the government to scrap the bank spying powers.

  • At a petition hand-in outside Number 10 Downing Street the groups warned that the powers would threaten everyone’s financial privacy.

  • The huge public call comes amid mounting pressure on the Government to scrap the proposed powers.

270,000 people have come together to sign petitions calling on the Government to scrap proposed bank spying powers.

The petitions, set up by Big Brother Watch and 38 Degrees and campaign group Organise, warn that new Government powers that would see banks forced to scan all customers’ accounts in search of fraud and error in the welfare system would be a disaster for everyone’s privacy. At a petition hand-in on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street the campaigners urged the Government to listen to the concerns of the public and scrap the proposals.

The Government proposed the controversial financial surveillance powers as a late stage amendment to the Data Protection and Digital Information (DPDI) Bill. They would allow the Department for Work and Pensions to issue “account information notices” to banks, building societies, and other organisations, requiring them to scan all customers’ accounts in search of secret criteria that could indicate the possibility of welfare fraud or mistakes, including amongst those in receipt of the state pension and working tax credits. Banks would be required to monitor all accounts to find these “signals”, and then send unlimited “matching” account information to the Department for Work and Pensions without account holders’ knowledge.

Signatories of the petitions expressed concern that the powers risk “taking away the freedoms and liberties of the many”, with one comment referring to the powers as “Big Brother Tactics”. One signatory wrote “No government department should have the right to demean/degrade anyone by spying on bank accounts. It’s a breach of trust, privacy and [it is] unjust.”

Legal advice by privacy experts, commissioned by Big Brother Watch, has warned that the Government’s proposed mass bank spying powers were not proportionate and would likely be unlawful and undermine UK privacy rights. The civil liberties campaign group recently joined with Organise and over 40 other campaign organisations and charities to write to the work and pensions secretary Mel Stride, warning of the risk of wrongful investigations and benefits suspensions if parliament allows the automated surveillance powers to pass into law.

The Information Commissioner John Edwards, who has responsibility for enforcing data protection legislation, recently stated that he has concerns that the power “could be interpreted more widely” and that the drafting “leaves it open to being interpreted and applied more widely than DWP’s stated intention”. Mr Edwards said that he is “unable, at this point, to provide my assurance to Parliament that this is a proportionate approach.” The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has also criticised the proposals and urged the Government to remove them from the DPDI Bill.

The DPDI Bill is currently passing through the House of Lords and is expected to be scrutinised at report stage in the coming weeks. During committee stage of the Bill, former Conservative party minister Lord Kamall joined the government’s former terror legislation reviewer Lord Anderson KC, digital rights campaigner Baroness Kidron, former director of Liberty and Shadow Attorney General Baroness Chakrabarti and Liberal Democrat Technology spokesman Lord Clement-Jones in tabling amendments to remove the powers.


Susannah Copson, Legal and Policy Officer at Big Brother Watch, said:

“The sheer scale of backlash against these proposals from people up and down the country shows that the public reject these plans to snoop on all of our bank accounts.”

“No one should have their bank accounts looked into without very good reason. However, this is what these surveillance powers will allow, threatening everyone’s financial privacy in the process. In the event that these algorithmic monitoring systems go wrong, it will be the elderly, the disabled, and the poor most at risk. We’re witnessing the makings of another Horizon scandal, but on a staggering scale.”

“Over 270,000 members of the public have spoken – these spying powers have no place in our democracy. It’s time for the Government to scrap them for good. ”

Matthew McGregor, CEO at 38 Degrees, the campaign group which partnered with Big Brother Watch on the 170,000 signature-strong petition, said:

“The hundreds of thousands of signatures make it very clear: the British public doesn’t want the Government teaming up with banks to take a sneaky peek through our bank accounts.”

“The police already have the power to investigate genuine suspects; ordinary people, whether they claim benefits or not, should be safe from intrusive new laws that put all of our privacy at risk.”

“People expect carers, people looking for work, sick or disabled people to be treated with respect, not like criminals who can be spied on and their privacy invaded without any just cause. In the wake of the Horizon scandal and in the face of public anger, the Government must scrap this immoral and sneaky power grab.”

Roxana Khan-Williams, Head of UK Campaigns at Organise, said:

“Over 102,000 workers and pensioners in the Organise community are demanding the DWP ends this proposal now – it’s an unjustified breach of privacy that targets some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Consider the stress and indignity of having to justify every purchase essential for survival and quality of life, from mobility aids to personal care. For disabled people, these items are not luxuries; they are vital for daily living. We must stand firm against policies that compromise the privacy of benefit claimants and advocate for protective measures that honour and safeguard their fundamental rights.”




  • Spokespeople are available for interview. Please contact Big Brother Watch on 07730439257 or info@bigbrotherwatch.org.uk

  • You can find images of the petition hand-in at Number 10 Downing Street attached.

  • Petition links – Big Brother Watch and 38 Degrees available here, Organise here.

  • Visit StopBankSpying.co.uk for more information about Big Brother Watch’s campaign.

  • For more information about the proposed powers, see Big Brother Watch’s briefing

About Big Brother Watch

Big Brother Watch is a UK civil liberties campaign group fighting for a free future. We’re determined to reclaim our privacy and defend freedoms at this time of enormous technological change. And we fight to win.

We’re a fiercely independent, diverse, non-partisan and non-profit group of campaigners and researchers, who work to roll back the surveillance state and protect rights in parliament, the media, and the courts if we have to. We publish unique investigations and pursue powerful public campaigns to pursue real change. We work relentlessly to inform and empower the public to collectively reclaim privacy, defend our civil liberties, and protect freedoms for the future.

About 38 Degrees

38 Degrees is a community of a million people who, in a moment away from their busy lives, take small actions that add up to something bigger: a fairer, more sustainable country, where everyone is treated with respect. Our ‘Campaigns By You’ platform opens up 38 Degrees’ powerful campaigning tools to anyone who shares this vision, connecting them with a community of people dedicated to changing the UK for the better, for all of us.

Find us on InstagramFacebookX (formerly Twitter) and TikTok– or why not start your own campaign?

About Organise

Organise is a community of over a million workers who believe that better work is possible. Organise empowers workers with the tools, support and confidence to improve their life at work.