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Is Hacking Sometimes In the Public Interest?

Is Hacking Sometimes In the Public Interest?

Sky News, which is partially owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, said on Thursday that one of its senior executives had authorized a reporter to hack into email on two separate occasions, both of which were “in the public interest.” The announcement indicates that “Britain’s hacking scandal has spilled into television news” after numerous revelations of newspaper reporters hacking into voice and email accounts, says the New York Times,

Sky News operates separately from News Corp.’s troubled newspaper business and has indeed reported extensively about the phone hacking scandal. Company officials have defended the hacking as strictly for “journalistic reasons — in pursuit of a story that benefited the public interest”; in one case, Sky News’s hacking had actually aided a police investigation. A thorough review of email accounts and other records has so far not turned up any “evidence of impropriety in Sky’s reporting practices.”

One case involved a reported hacking into the emails of a suspected pedophile. The other case involved hacking into emails that a reporter suspected had been used by John Darwin and his wife, Anne. Known in tabloids as the “canoe man,” Darwin faked his death in a canoeing accident in 2002. He moved to Panama and collected £500,000 in life insurance in collusion with his wife. In 2007, John Darwin moved back to Britain and lived in a secret apartment in his old house; in December of that year, he turned himself into London police, saying that “I think I may be a missing person.” But he and his wife were soon charged with fraud, after it was revealed that Anne Darwin had cashed in their life insurance policy and been photographed with an estate agent in Panama.

Sky News’s acknowledgement of hacking occurred only days after James Murdoch resigned as chairman of Sky’s parent company, British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), which is 39.1 percent owned by News Corp.. Sky News officials say that there is “no link” between Murdoch’s resignation and the hacking revelations. Indeed, according to the New York Times, these were only made public after a recent inquiry by the Guardian.

Tom Watson, a Labour Party member of Parliament, discounted Sky News’s insistence that the hacking was done “in the public interest.” As he said in the BBC:

“The chair of BSkyB has to say something on this and reassure viewers that this has not been going on more widely. There are cases where the public is best served with journalists breaking the law, but it has to be done in extremis, and I am not sure whether it was in these two cases.”

But Peter Preston, a former editor of the Guardian, said that the hacking of the Darwins’ email was in the public interest:

“I don’t see this as a story in the News of the World type at all.

“Nobody is saying there was not some real crookery here that the police weren’t properly informed of.”

He added: “It is when you get into the more seedy areas of stories, which don’t have any public merit at all, the difficulties start.”

Can an illegal practice like hacking be, at times, “in the public interest” and if so, who determines when it is and why?

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39 comments

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2:57PM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

LOL! Weel I guess that's one reason for hacking! *points to "John's" message* I do worry about the ethecs involved though. ^_~

10:43AM PDT on Apr 23, 2013

Hacking is illegal for many good reasons. Privacy is very important. Any organization or individual who hacks into another's system no matter what the reason is in violation both legally and morally of laws. we all have the right to privacy and to be left alone.

9:45AM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

contact kross303 at yahoo dot com for your common hacking problems .from wensite hack to email hack to facebook hack.he is the man for the job

6:53AM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

By the Way Carl I fear the government more than any terorest organization

6:51AM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

NO! neither the government or an individual should be hacking into anything. There should always be a fair hearing infront of a local judge for a warrent fo such as the fake ones our government are baseless fishing expidations most of the time. Governments spend more time protection corperations than the people that live in their country.

3:57PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

The only hacking that can be acceptable is;
1. Intelligence agencies acting in defence of society.
2. Law enforcement agencies with proper warrents investigating crimes.
3. The millitary performing or defending against acts of war.
4. Attempts to penetrate organizations that have invited the hackers to try.

And BTW - the real meaning of the word "hacker" in an it context is "a very skilled programmer" - the origianl meaning was "a carpenter who is good with an axe"

3:55PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

Perhaps the question shopuld be:

Is it ok to circumvent the restrictions put on government law enforcement and regulatory agencies byh "outsourcing" the "regualtion" and "enforcement" to self appointed private agents only restricted by their own ethics ?

And that rediculous claim that its harmless and ok to hack into systems to "check" their security thus actually helping them is just as BS as if you went down a road and broke into the homes to make the people living there aware that their homes were insecure.
Imagine you are a hospital that has had its patient administration system compromised - would you really take the chance that the hackers didnt actually manipulate any data which could result in patients getting the wrong medication, the wrong surgical procedures etc?

I also guess Wikileaks publishing data allowing the public to identify Afghani locals cooperating with US forces was a really cool thing.

And the silly idea that its a good thing to let the public know everything - a few years ago an English newspaper published the a list of names and addresses of convicted child molesters and as a result innocent people living at those somewhat dated adresses had their homes firebombed and innocent people who had the misfortune of having a name on the list were assaulted - again a really cool thing.

The only hacking that can be acceptable is;
1. Intelligence agencies acting in defence of society.
2. Law enforcement agencies with proper warrents investiga

11:34AM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

I see too many sides....the good ..the bad.

6:42PM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Only if it saves the world.

6:38PM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

So? Good organizations can be infiltrated by hired bad spies. Likewise the mafia and gangs by "the good guys". Wire tapping comes to mind. It's all a grey area. I think our shady government needs to be as transparent as possible, but it's not a perfect world. Our right to know what these jackals are up to is being denied by tweaking laws to smokescreen.

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