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Thursday 14 January 2016

Was The Sun Hacking Phones?

When the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks gave her evidence to the Hacking Trial, she was quite clear not so much about where phone hacking had gone on, but where it had not: during her time as editor of the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, there had not been anything like that happening. This, together with her not knowing how the Screws was getting all those exclusives, formed the bedrock of her defence.
How dare they snoop on the public? That's our job

That assertion may be about to be put to the test, after Press Gazette reportedNews UK is facing new claims that The Sun was involved in phone-hacking … The company has said the claims are ‘unsubstantiated’ and that if they proceed it will ‘defend them vigorously … The claims all involve people who claim their voicemails were intercepted by Dan Evans when he moved from the Sunday Mirror to the News of the World”.

There was more: “The High Court in London today heard that the claimants want to argue that hacking happened outside the agreed timescale of 1 January 2005 to 8 August 2006, that journalists other than Evans were involved and that the hacking also extended to The Sun … If phone-hacking was found to involve The Sun this would escalate litigation for News Group Newspapers – just at the point when it appeared to be ending”.

It wouldn’t do Ms Brooks’ already tarnished reputation a whole lot of good, either. How many claims are we talking about? “The 16 claims are due to go to trial in April. The court heard that there are another 25 claimants in addition to this 16 … The court heard that five new defence witnesses have come forward with phone-hacking allegations dating back to 1998 and that a number of these were former NGN journalists” [my emphasis].

This is all too reminiscent of hacking allegations levelled at the Screws: after the “One rogue reporter” defence was debunked, there were only a few cases of hacking. But that became a few dozen, and after the Guardian and New York Times got to work on the story, it came clear that there had been several hundred. The prospect of another “iceberg” revelation may be focusing minds at the Baby Shard bunker right now.

Who is making the latest claims? The Guardian told thatthe 16 claimants … include former EastEnders and Coronation Street actors … Simon Clegg, the former chief executive of the British Olympic Association … says around half of the articles he alleges were obtained through phone hacking were published in the Sun … Other celebrities …  include the former FamilyFortunes presenter Les Dennis, Hear’Say singer and Coronation Street actor Kym Marsh and Doctors actor Sarah Manners”.

Ominously, the Independent has warnedIf five of the claimants are successful and they are allowed to amend their claims to include phone hacking at to include phone hacking at The Sun, lawyers representing victims say a potential 60 cases could follow”. That would take the number of cases into three figures.

Needless to say, most of the press is keeping schtum on this one. But with potentially damning claims from Greg Miskiw, Glenn Mulcaire, and Paul “privacy is for paedos” McMullan already on record, all asserting that there was hacking at the Sun, the story might just force its way into the public consciousness. Watch this space.


Shawlrat said...

Karma can be a bitch

rob said...

From one creator (of the universe andeverything) to another (of the Wapping Swamp of Lies and distortions):

"We apologise for the inconvenience" © Douglas Adams

Anonymous said...

Oh to have that gang of scumbags in front of the beak again, THIS time all found guilty and all of them banged up for years. Especially Brooks and the Murdochs.

I wonder what action IPSO will take.............and what might be the corporate responsibility of directors of the news organisations.

If any of the accused have any sense of decency left they'll sing like canaries. But maybe that's stretching honesty too far. More likely they'll be cringing behind their corrupt mafia bosses.

J said...

You know I really can’t believe the hype (especially headlines) and misinformation (or just missing information, like in the S*n article) this produced, even in the IT press.

Summary of the actual facts. It, the private communications, was done using the works equipment; using a works account; while “on the clock” at work.

Judgement – if using works equipment, or using a works account (even if supplied by an outside/third party provider) on or off the clock, then as long as this is detailed in the employment contract the company has the ability to monitor all communications related to the equipment/account including private contacts.

How to get around your private communications being, potentially, monitored – use your own hardware and don’t use the works provided accounts. Yes it really is that simple. No, honestly… just do those two things and that’s it, your private communications can’t be monitored.

Seriously, people have – generally – known that company email accounts may be monitored (in part due to the company running the email server) and that web usage is also monitored (due to using a company gateway from the Intranet to the web) and no one has overly worried about it (unless watching to much porn in company time!)… and yet somehow this individual threw a fit because he was using a “messenger” style program and had linked his private contacts to his works account. Seriously WTAF!

Anonymous said...

Who can forget that disgusting turd McMullan - he also said "Privacy is evil"!

Would that he had the chance to test his "thesis" in three-to-a-cell in a space designed for one. If only.

It's impossible to have any respect for that kind of crackpot mentality.

Anonymous said...

@ Jonathan Wilson.

In which case company executives won't mind staff having access to their email exchanges on company policies, especially on redundancies and planned cutbacks.

All on "clock time" you understand. I mean, what could they have to hide.....?

Unknown said...

Rupert and Rebekakaka back in it again. It could happen to a nicer pair.

SteveB said...

Jonathon is correct.

the bottom line is that if you use works email accounts then they are not your emails. It's the modern day equivalent of people in Crewe Works making household items or garden ornaments in company time with company facilities and company metal - yes, they may have made it but it will never be their private property.

on a less obvious note, if you are using your private accounts but accessing them over works comms equipment they may be your emails and posts etc BUT the company could have legal liablities for what you post. Various Telecomms and Terrorism laws could come into play before you even reach the touchy grey area of civil liablity if something slanderous was posted.

Best stick to your own equipment (and stop stealing electricity!).

And never mind the workers getting access to company plans, why do you think certain companies give union reps laptops and email accounts? Progressive, cooperative attitude my arse!

Anonymous said...

@ SteveB.

Yeah, one rule for them and one rule for everyone else. Rupert Murdoch and Brooks would love to employ a yesman like you. In fact they already do. See the above names.

Not only that, he and his doggies steal privacy. It's called "hacking."

Mind you, all HE has to do is turn up with another member of the mafia and bleat a rehearsed, "This is the most humble day of my life." And not share all his emails and phone calls - on "clock time."

Not that Murdoch and co have anything to worry about. Not as long as they have yesmen and yeswomen around to take the heat. And the jail time.

Tim Fenton said...


I think SteveB is talking about the Sun lead story today, not phone hacking.

And what he says is broadly correct.

Anonymous said...

To Tim. SteveB might be broadly right wing politically correct and legal.

But that isn't the point. Intruding - snooping - into private concerns is.

As matters stand, too much individual freedom is ceded to "companies" and their profiteering. And it gets worse and more broadly right wing. Why be surprised when it gets to the global level and "logical" conclusion of TTIP?

There's a major principle at stake on this issue. Freedom and privacy are always stolen gradually. I prefer freedom to bottom line profiteering spivs any day of the week and twice on Sundays. If employees have an obligation not to excessively use company facilities, the company has an obligation to respect individual privacy: it works both ways.

But as we well know the balance these days is deliberately rigged in favour of the companies and their licence to destroy lives and communities. This issue is merely another expression of that, albeit at a relatively minor level.

As for the Sun "news"paper......does anybody with a sense of decency believe ANYTHING that Nazi rag peddles?

SteveB said...

To Anon 0905

"broadly right wing politically correct and legal" has nothing to do with it. And neither does TTIP. Basic common sense says that if you create something using things bought by your employer with their money then what you create is their property, it doesn't matter whether it is a steel bracket for a hanging basket (Crewe Works in the 70s and 80s) or someone in a supermarket taking items for lunch or an office worker sending an email. If they paid for the equipment and the electricity (and possibly even the email account) then the email is not your private concern - it belongs to them! Just because the cash value of an email is so small it isn't worth calling theft it doesn't change the ownership. How would you like it if someone picked up your phone and sent a message then said you had no right to know what it was? Even worse, how would you like it if the police came knocking on your door because an IP address or account registered to you had been linked to something criminal?

There is a big difference in real private email sent from your own account and your own phone in company time. That would be private and the employer has no legals rights to intercept them, something which british employers were warned yesterday after the badly written newspaper articles were published. But they do have a right to say you can't do it when they are paying you to do something else. What they can do is ban private devices from the workplace to stop people wasting company time. The problem is that society has dumbed down so much that continuous access to messages and twitter and facebook is now considered by many as a basic right almost like oxygen - whereas some of us thing of it as an addiction like heroin. I've worked with (or in one case carried) people who spent hours on personal business. I know one who spends half his evening shifts on dating websites using a company PC and internet connection!

There is also the side question that comes along in all sorts of cases. The fact that journos seem to think that all work involves sitting at a computer with internet completely ignoring the fact that many real jobs aren't like that. "Real workers" can't send emails and not be noticed!

Tim Fenton said...

@11, @12,

Just to underscore the point Steve is making - I was working at a large multinational in 1997, at the time Diana, Princess of Wales died. At the time, many sports fixtures were postponed as a mark of respect, but Scotland's next football international was not.

One of those working in the same part of the organisation as me used his work email account to send the Scottish FA a rather intemperate complaint about them not being sufficiently respectful.

That he did it in his own time was not deemed relevant: when the Scottish FA complained to the large multinational, he was sacked on the spot. The email account was not his to use, whenever he used it.

Anonymous said...

@ 13 and 14.

You're missing the point I make. Which is, at the risk of repeating myself:

It "...might be broadly right wing politically correct and legal" but it isn't morally right to snoop into private matters. In the present state of affairs the law is a ass, sir, a ass. Companies may well own the hardware but they don't own private thoughts and expression. That is a long dark, slow, downward slope to a commercialised totalitarian frame of mind. Umberto Eco had it right when he dubbed it "ur fascism."

TTIP is relevant because it is as, sigh, I said, the "logical" conclusion to that way of "thinking" at a much higher level. That makes commercial considerations free to try to overturn the legislation of a democratically elected sovereign government for no other reason than it MIGHT lose profit. All on the basis of "access to free markets." The parallels are obvious.

Of such precedents is gradual totalitarianism made. And no amount of rigged legislation can make THAT right.

But please feel free to have the last word.

AndyB said...

I assume the reason The S** is getting so many stories simply wrong nowadays is that they can't hack phones any more.