Archive for the ‘data protection’ tag

Daily Mail campaign to protect personal information

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There is a double irony about the Daily Mail’s campaign to strengthen data protection.

It was only last month that the Daily Mail itself lost a laptop containing the personal and financial details of thousands of staff, suppliers and contributors (see Tara Conlan, 4/7/08).

And in 2006, when the Information Commissioner discovered that newspapers were systematically gathering confidential personal information (i.e. hiring private detectives to collect information illegally) guess who was the worst offender? The Daily Mail (with 952 ‘transactions’ – see What Price Privacy Now? p.9).

Written by Martin Moore

August 27th, 2008 at 7:41 am

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Protecting Information

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The news that Lord Falconer intends to increase penalties for infringement of the Data Protection Act is not surprising but does provoke important questions for the media. It is not surprising given the trend towards increased privacy protection (after the jailing of Clive Goodwin, the Information Commissioners’ report ‘What Price Privacy’, and decisions in recent celebrity cases like that of Loreena McKennitt) – and the growing concerns raised about safeguards on information about individuals held by the government. But what implications does this have for original journalism? And if there are greater legal constraints on personal information will the government strengthen the provision of public information via the Freedom of Information Act? Right now the answer to the second question is no. Indeed the government is going in the opposite direction and seeking to limit freedom of information and thereby reduce the provision of public information. This is unbalanced and inequitable.
The answer to the first question is more complex. It will almost certainly constrain journalism which cannot be justified in the public interest (like the ‘fishing’ done by Goodman), but it’s also bound to impact genuine public interest journalism. Journalists will be much more aware of the risks they take when researching a story, for example about bad practice by a large pharmaceutical company. Similarly, employees in public and private organisations may feel more confident threatening legal action against prying journalists. This makes it critical we have more debate about what ‘public interest’ means. The more examples we have, the more clear it becomes, the easier it will be for journalists and the public to understand and acknowledge. The recent success of the Wall Street Journal vs. Jameel shows that the courts do recognise the value of public interest journalism and will rule in its favour, but one recent precedent will not give much confidence to journalists in difficult, and sometimes ambiguous, situations.

Written by Martin Moore

February 8th, 2007 at 11:51 am

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