NEW surveillance law is being welcomed by many South West London MPs, despite more than 200,000 signing a petition in protest.
Under the so-called Snooper’s Charter which came into effect on December 30, internet service providers are forced to store people’s internet histories for a year and disclose them to the government if requested.
The Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) also outlines provisions for bulk interception of electronic communications and equipment interference – in other words, hacking.
Conservative MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond, who voted in favour of the new law, said: “Investigatory powers are essential for the fight against terrorism and to catch online child abusers.
“Our existing, piecemeal framework of legislation around regulatory powers is outdated and not fit for purpose.”
Mr Hammond also highlighted the need to combat the dangers of cybercrime.
“The cybercrime threat will become more and more serious as criminal methods become more technologically advanced and we must be prepared for this,” he said.
“I believe the IPA will give the UK a world leading oversight system which delicately strikes the balance between privacy and security.”
Conservative MP for Battersea Jane Ellison, who also voted in favour, said: “It is important that those who keep us safe have the necessary and proportionate powers that are fit for the digital age.
“The IPA gives law enforcement agencies the tools they need to tackle present and emerging threats, along with enhanced privacy and accountability safeguards for the public, including judicial oversight.”
Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam Paul Scully said of the bill, introduced by Theresa May when she was home secretary: “I did have my concerns, but I eventually voted in favour because of reassurances I was given by the Government.”
He said it had been independently reviewed on three occasions over the past two years.
“I was therefore reassured that the public will not be subject to mass spying and that law-abiding citizens will not have their privacy invaded,” he added.
But there is fierce opposition from civil rights groups and campaigners.
Liberty policy director Bella Sankey said: “The passage of the Snooper’s Charter through Parliament is a sad day for British liberty.
“Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the state has achieved totalitarian-style surveillance powers – the most intrusive system of any democracy in human history.”
Others believe the anti-terror powers are an important step in ensuring public safety.
Wimbledon IT engineer Imesh Joshi said: “In the interests of public security it should be necessary for internet service providers to hand over data – if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about.
“But I do understand people’s concerns about privacy.”
Ms Sankey added: “Liberty has fought tooth and nail against this terrifying legislation, but the paucity of political opposition has been devastating.
“The fight does not end here. Our message to Government? See you in court.”