Feeds

Phone hack obsession obscures NotW privacy scandal

What about illegal access to tax, bank, police records?

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Comment One of the more curious aspects of the ongoing News of the World privacy invasion scandal is the focus on mobile phone hacking accusations, when a far wider range of dubious and downright criminal tactics were allegedly in play at the tabloid newspaper.

Clive Goodman, the NotW's former royal correspondent and Glen Mulcaire, a private detective accomplice, were each jailed for illegal wiretapping of the mobile phones of royal aides and celebrities in January 2007. Mulcaire hacked PIN codes associated with the mobile phone numbers of Royal aides and celebrities to access their voicemail messages, which were then accessed for possible newsworthiness. It seems likely that Mulcaire used social engineering trickery to reset these mobile PINs to a number he could then pass on to unscrupulous journalists, certainly Goodman and perhaps others (either directly or through Goodman).

According to police, Goodman and Mulcaire were engaged in a "sophisticated and wide ranging conspiracy to gather personal data about high profile figures" and phone tapping tactics affected a "much smaller pool of people". Other allegedly criminal tactics used in a muck-raking expedition included obtaining "unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills".

The scandal was reopened last week after The Guardian reported that three public figures whose phones had been illegally tapped received hush-hush payments totalling £1m in legal fees and damages. Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers Association, was paid £700K in damages and legal fees in exchange for dropping a privacy lawsuit. Other targets of the wiretap reportedly included John Prescott.

It's also given many celebrity victims of NotW exposes a chance to grind their axe.

Subsequent extensive media coverage has focused on two strands, to the exclusion of other issues. Firstly there is the issue of whose phones were hacked into, or had their voicemail messages intercepted. Taylor, model Elle Macpherson, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, publicist Max Clifford, and football agent Sky Andrew were named in the original wiretapping case against Mulcaire and Goodman.

Newspapers, both highbrow and popular, have reported over the last week that football managers Alex Ferguson and Alan Shearer left messages on Taylor's voicemail, so these messages might have been intercepted. Many column inches have also been poured out over whether former deputy prime minister John Prescott was the victim of wiretapping, as he loudly complains, or not, as the police say.

This aspect of the case has presented another perfect opportunity for the UK press to engage in their preoccupation with the lives of celebrities and sportspersons.

The other strand dominating coverage is the more important issue of whether the illegal news gathering tactics were in widespread use at the News of the World and perhaps The Sun, as The Guardian argues, or confined to the Goodman, as News International maintains.

Security for virtualized datacentres

Next page: Bootnote

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Big Content outs piracy hotbeds: São Paulo, Beijing ... TORONTO?
MPAA calls Canadians a bunch of bootlegging movie thieves
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.