The bulk collection of personal data by UK spy agencies was of vital importance to the prevention of terrorist attacks, an independent review of draft security legislation has found.
According to David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, laws that gave MI5, MI6 and GCHQ the right to gather large volumes of data from members of the public had a ''clear operational purpose''.
Prime Minister Theresa May had welcomed the main findings but Labour and privacy campaigners had voiced concern.
Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary, pointed out that May had not accepted Anderson's recommendation for an advisory panel on technology.
''She and the home secretary must accept the report in its entirety and deliver on the separate concessions extracted by Labour in the Commons – tougher restrictions on the use of internet connection records and stronger protections for journalists and lawyers,'' Burnham said.
Human rights group Liberty said the review itself had failed to bolster government and security agency claims in favour of bulk powers. ''The report provides no further information to justify the agencies' vague and hypothetical claims and instead invites the public to 'trust us'. Post-Chilcot, this won't wash – hard evidence is required instead,'' said Bella Sankey, the pressure group's policy director.
Anderson has also supported new powers to hack into phones and computers amid concerns about the development of tougher encryption systems.
According to commentators, the findings would bolster the government's stance over spying laws in the face of privacy concerns.
Anderson's report said bulk powers 'play an important part in identifying, understanding and averting threats in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and further afield'
The inquiry has called for the appointment of a panel of independent academics and industry experts to advise on the impact of changing technology, and how the intelligence agencies could reduce the 'privacy footprint' of their activities.