A British proposal to log every web visit, email, phone call or text message made by its citizens is a worrying step our Government could eventually find tempting, a law academic says.
If passed, the legislation known as the "Big Brother Bill" would allow British authorities to track what citizens do online, over the phone and through the post, with all data being kept for up to a year.
In some cases it would mean the information could be monitored in real time - but the Government has been quick to point out that it's only after the bad guys.
"Unless you are a criminal, then you've nothing to worry about from this new law," Home Secretary Theresa May wrote in the Sun newspaper.
The Ministry of Justice has no immediate plans for such measures in New Zealand but is keeping an eye on the British move.
"Governments around the world are looking at a variety of ways of ensuring important communications data is not lost, which can hinder criminal investigations," crime prevention and criminal justice acting general manager Malcolm Luey said.
"The ministry has not considered the same measures as are being proposed by the UK."
But Dr Chris Gallavin, of the University of Canterbury School of Law, believes it cannot not be ruled out that New Zealand might follow suit.
He saw the bill as another step beyond the Patriot Act that the United States Government introduced to heighten its surveillance abilities in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"It's a very attractive proposition for governments around the world for monitoring and controlling their citizenry.
"This effectively pushes the boat a little bit further in the sense that it allows for quite extreme surveillance on investigations involving low levels of suspicion ... It's a real Big Brother situation."
Dr Gallavin described an assurance by Ms May that the proposals would be "sensible and limited" as a "parody of Orwellian extreme naivety".
"It smacks of one of those cases where they say tyrannical leadership is something you only have to be worried about when other people are in leadership but not when we are in leadership and of course we are not going to use this for evil means ... It's nonsensical."
He was concerned that what the British had proposed would gradually become the norm in many countries.
A spokeswoman for the Privacy Commissioner said law enforcement agencies internationally were trying to update their powers to keep up with changes in technology, and the British proposals had to be seen in that light.
"The Search and Surveillance Act attempted to do the same in New Zealand. What's important is that individual rights aren't eroded in the process, and that appropriate checks and balances remain in place."By Jamie Morton @Jamienzherald Email Jamie