Dispatches’ Watching the Detectives: why journalists should be worried about the Communications Data Bill

Consider these two unrelated events:

  1. A bill is proposed to record every contact (and possibly search) made by every UK citizen, to be available to law enforcement agencies and stored by communication service providers
  2. An inquiry into press standards and a leaked Home Office report both uncover the ease with which private investigators can access personal records through law enforcement and other agencies

I’m worried about 1. because of 2. And tonight’s Dispatches: Watching the Detectives does a particularly good job of illustrating why. It is “the ease and extent to which the unregulated private investigation industry is willing to acquire personal data for a price” – not just from the police services, but the health services, benefits system, and other bodies, including commercial ones such as communications service providers (for an illustration of the data security of private companies, witness the Information Commissioner’s Office targeting them after a series of data protection breaches).

If you’re a journalist, student journalist or blogger with any interest in protecting your sources, you should be watching the Communications Data Bill closely and understanding how it affects your job.

In the meantime, it’s also worth developing some good habits to protect your stories and your sources against unwanted snooping. More on my Delicious bookmarks under ‘security’.

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