The government has proposed changes to the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) after accepting that some parts of it are "inconsistent with EU law".
The IPA governs the collection and use of communications data by law enforcement agencies.
In December 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that some aspects of the legislation were incompatible with EU law.
A public consultation on the proposed changes will run until 18 January.
Under the IPA, the secretary of state can order companies to keep communication metadata such as when, and to whom, messages were sent.
But the government accepted the IPA was inconsistent with EU law because:
- law enforcement did not need to seek independent permission to access communications data
- collecting communication metadata was not only reserved for the most serious crimes
To address those concerns, the government proposes:
- that offences carrying a potential prison sentence of six months or more should be considered "serious crimes" for which communications data can be collected
- that communications data will no longer be collected for the purpose of public health, collecting taxes or regulating financial markets
- creating a new Office for Communications Data Authorisations (OCDA) that will authorise or decline law enforcement requests for data
It said creating the OCDA was a "significant" task that would require new premises, IT systems and staff.
The Open Rights Group described the changes as a "major victory" but said it wanted further amendments.
"Adding independent authorisation for communications data requests will make the police more effective, as corruption and abuse will be harder," it said in a blog post.
"Nevertheless, the government has disregarded many key elements of the judgment. It isn't going to reduce the amount of data retained."
The public has until 18 January to submit comments on the proposals to the government.