Who is responsible for the phone hacking saga?

The Irish Data protection Commissioner, Gary Davis, has we understand, taken the unprecedented step of contacting the mobile phone operators in Ireland to try to shut down phone hacking for the future.

Mr Davis’ plan involves a very radical plan in that he wants the remote access of mobile phone voicemails turned off and he is planning to legislate for this. It has come about following his belief that mobiles phones in the Republic of Ireland may have been hacked but is this going a step too far?

How many of us receive voicemails? I would suggest that every one of us does at some point whether it be due to working or in school or college but what do we do about it? Usually we have our mobile phone with us and, at a convenient time, we access our voicemail using it to dial direct and securely to the mailbox. How many of us actually use the remote access? I would suggest very few do so why do the mobile phone companies perpetuate this system that allows journalists and private investigators to hack into other people’s voicemail?

What the operators are doing is creating a world where there is no security for the electronic products they sell the public. Yes, they will say that they highlight the fact you need to change your voicemail access code when you get the phone but where do you find out about this? Somewhere inside the accompanying leaflet that is printed in so many languages it is hard to find what you are looking for and in such a small print that you need a magnifying glass to read it!! This results in the vast majority of users not even realising there is a voicemail access code let alone how to change it to something they want to use. So why do they not just turn off remote access? This is something they are now going to have to consider as a resolution to this hacking problem as I would suggest it is not a service utilised very much by the phone users. I am therefore tempted to put the blame solely at the feet of the mobile phone operators…..

This, however, leads us on to the mobile phone users, they are not out of the woods either as they make no attempt to try to secure their phones. We have seen that there are more people who now understand the need to have the voicemail access code and are setting one up but what do they do for a code? They use their birthday! Now, anyone trying to hack into a phone only needs to know the supplier, the number and the preset access code and their date of birth. With this information they are easily able to hack into the voicemails of the users and get any information there and also listen in to their personal, and intimate, conversations. So why don’t the users take action themselves? Mainly because it is too much trouble and also ‘pretty uncool’ as I was told by a group of younger (teen) users. I am therefore persuaded to consider blaming the mobile phone users for not taking security highly enough….

We now move on to the press who are the ones that have hacked into the vast majority of phones. I am not saying it is always the journalists that have done this, they may well have asked a private investigator to do it however, as the sponsor of the work they have to take responsibility. In a recent interview a private investigator said he hacked into phones because he could and was being paid to do it. Take away the ethics of this and we find that the mobile phone operators and users have actually allowed them to do this so we are looking at collective blame, or are we?

Let us look at what I believe is the real reason behind why these phones were hacked. Every day we all buy or read newspapers and there has arisen a frightening public lust to find out more and more of the gory detail behind the big stories happening. No longer content to read that someone has gone missing, Joe Public now wants to know what they were about, who they spoke to, what the feelings of their friends and family are plus any revelations and scandal that can be found. This is why the NotW sold so well as it came up with all the gore, rumour and innuendo resulting from this. Joe Public wants to know what opinion to come up with, they want to know how to vote, they want to know the ins and outs of the ‘celebrity lifestyles’ and the papers have to feed this lust and the hacking was the best and easiest way to do this as it got down to the intimate details of their lives without them knowing.

I therefore conclude that it is the responsibility of Joe Public for this hacking, yes there were other factors but these only happened to feed the celeb-lust of the readers of the newspapers.

Stand up people, you should be in the dock!!

About KPG Professional Services

Kevin has been working in the Data Protection field for over 20 years with The Post Office, Royal Mail Marketing, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Glasgow Housing Association Ltd. He is also trained in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and has supplied expertise and support in this discipline for the past 4 years. In his leisure time Kevin is a presenter on Hospital Radio, an SRU rugby referee and referee coach and also the stadium announcer at McDiarmid Park for his team St Johnstone in the Scottish Premier League.
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