December 14, 2006
Newspaper snooping chart revealed
Information Commissioner names publications involved in personal information trafficking
The Information Commissioner has named 31 publications involved with a firm of private investigators involved in the illegal trade of personal information.
Published as part of a follow-up report What Price Privacy Now? the list named many national newspapers and magazines including the Daily Mail, Sunday People, Daily Mirror, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Sunday Mirror, Best Magazine, Evening Standard, The Observer, Daily Sport, Sunday Times, The People, Daily Express, Sunday Express, The Sun, Closer Magazine, Sunday Sport, Daily Record, Real Magazine, Woman’s Own and Marie Claire.
Richard Thomas, the privacy czar, called for the Press Complaints Commission “to take a much stronger line to tackle any involvement by the press in the illegal trade in personal information.”
“People care about their personal privacy and have a right to expect that their personal details remain confidential. Who they are, where they live, who their friends and family are, how they run their lives: these are all private matters. Individuals may choose to divulge such information to others, but information about them held confidentially should not be available to anyone prepared to pay the right price,” the Report added.
A total of 305 unnamed journalists were identified as recipients of a range of data supplied by a Hampshire-based firm of private investigators. Four people linked to the firm were convicted of offences, but no journalists were prosecuted. Accessing such information can be legal if used in the public interest.
The current penalty for illegally buying or selling personal information is a fine of up to £5,000 in magistrates’ courts or unlimited in crown courts.
The report follows an earlier probe into the black market trade in information published in May this year in which Mr Thomas called for jail terms introduced for breaches of the Data Protection Act. Media organisations are opposed to such a move.
Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Evening Standard, said the report’s ranking was “utterly meaningless” as it was based on the activities of just one supplier.
“Associated Newspapers, in common with all newspapers and broadcasters – and many other organisations, including lawyers – use search agencies to obtain information entirely legitimately from a range of public sources,” it said.
“In addition, the law specifically makes provision for journalists making enquiries in the public interest. Since the information commissioner first raised his concerns Associated Newspapers has repeatedly stressed to all its journalists that they must observe the law when seeking information.”
For a full copy of the Information Commissioner’s Report – click on pdf the icon below.