Feeds

Custodial offence for deliberate invasion of data protection? Forget it!

You had your chance, Labour

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

I must confess that I find it rich that New Labour Ministers, who were in government for more than a decade, are now huffing and puffing about their “phone inboxes being hacked”. The sad truth is that, in government, they could have done a great deal to protect individual privacy by making such hacking a custodial offence.

In short, they failed to implement an offence that would have extended to a very large number of situations - well beyond the difficult issue of when (or whether) it is in the public interest for the press to hack into individual voicemail inboxes.

I also make a prediction: the custodial section 55 offence in the Data Protection Act is not going to happen for the foreseeable future.

In 2006, the Information Commissioner published details of the scale of the problem. In his documents What Price Privacy and What Price Privacy, Now (pdf), the Commissioner outlined how a range of organisations were obtaining personal data by deception.

Although this blog focuses on the press, the problem of unlawful obtaining was endemic across a range of industries. The current S.55 offence usually offers a minor punishment of a fine; it is not a recordable offence, and those successfully prosecuted do not have the indignity of providing a DNA sample or fingerprints. This gives the impression that the offence is of little importance to society.

In relation to the press, the Commissioner documented that following the invoice trail of a few private investigators who had delivered services to the following tabloid newspapers:

Daily/Sunday Mail had paid for 1,218 investigations to be undertaken by Private Investigators on behalf of up to 91 different journalists. The Daily/Sunday Mirror ordered 824 investigations on behalf of up to 70 journalists. The Sunday People ordered 802 investigations involving up to 50 journalists, and the News of the World (the paper of current interest) had ordered 228 transactions of up to 33 journalists.

The evidence above suggests there was a large number of invasions of privacy but the facts cannot be proven. For instance, if there were an investigation into a target politician, the fact of the investigation (as proved by the invoice) would not reveal evidence as to the methods employed by the investigator. It is very unlikely that the fact of “hacking into voicemail inboxes" would appear on any invoice!

However, the number of investigations undertaken by a handful or private investigators at the behest of tabloid newspapers is simply staggering. They show a systemic use of this kind of investigation and it is inconceivable that all newspaper editors appear to be ignorant of the methods employed by their contracted agents. After all, in total 305 journalists had commissioned about 3,500 investigations into individuals. So is the News of the World's claim that there was an isolated case of hacking undertaken by a rogue reporter credible? I leave you to answer that one.

Business security measures using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
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.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.