Saturday, 18 October 2014

Were we really that surprised by the phone-hacking scandal?

Many of us were left shocked, stunned and even outraged at the phone-hacking scandal of 2013, but was it really that much a surprise?

Rebekah Brooks arrives for the first day of the trial at the Old Bailey. Photo: Getty

After recently reading the article, New apps make adultery harder to hide, in The Times newspaper, it revealed to me; that not only is adultery rather more common than I originally thought, but that the desire to pry and check-up on one another is also becoming alarmingly more apparent.  The fact companies have actually designed multiple apps to accommodate for this, highlights an obsession with each other’s business and an overwhelming lack of trust. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000,  it states that; 'It shall be an offence for a person to intentionally, and without lawful authority, to intercept, at any place in the United Kingdon' (including use of a public telecommunication system).  Clearly our obsessional snooping has also made us ignorant to the law.

So with this I ask, were we that shocked when the phone-hacking scandal came to light?  Was it that much of a surprise when the likes of Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of The Sun newspaper, used means to intercept communications; listen to mobile phone messages, allegedly make corrupt payments to public officials and pervert the course of justice by removing and concealing evidence?  Didn't she just get caught for something we are all, in some way, guilty of?  Whether it be a casual stalk on Facebook or a ‘lurk’ on Twitter, we've all become partial to a bit of prying.

But aren't there systems in place to protect us from this kind of thing?  Well yes, sort of; honourable Organisations such as IPSO (The Independent Press Standards Organisation) have been introduced to deter this sort of thing.  So surely they felt utterly disgusted at the phone-hacking scandal?  Wellll, maybe not... you see, IPSO's board is actually made up of 7 independent members who have no connections with the newspaper and magazine industry.  However, the remaining 5 are representative of such an industry, including publications such as The Sun, The Guardian, The Mirror Group and The Telegraph (to name a few).  So, in light of this small, yet interesting revelation, it becomes apparent that IPSO may not be so squeaky clean itself.  The fact numerous board members represent (or have represented) various publications which have been found guilty of phone-hacking (such as The Sun, which Brooks was the former editor of), suggests that members of IPSO may well have been aware of the fact phone-hacking scandal all along.  No!  Surely not I here you cry!  IPSO corrupt? NEVER?!  Well, yes, sorry to burst your cute little bubble, but if numerous publications were all illegally sourcing information, and it was working for them, they were bound to keep it on the down low as a sort of mutual agreement between them all.  Furthermore, in knowing this, it again echoes issues of trust, if you can't even trust the organisations which monitor and enforce the law, who can you trust?  Is this perhaps why we're seeing a growing amount of people taking it upon themselves to find the truth?

With the continual advancements in technology, we are not only gaining the ability to source more information, but are also projecting more about ourselves.  This isn't just via social media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook, where you knowingly (and willingly) communicate information about yourself, but also through search engines and web pages which you subconsciously feed with snippets of information.  A prime example of this is the use of filter bubbles; filter bubbles make use of information via websites you use, which then generate personalised suggestions back to you, based on the information you've given it (such as location, interests, browsing habits and search history).  People may see this as a positive thing, a sort of online personal shopper, making everything a little more efficient.  However, in doing so, it is actually using information about yourself which you may not want to share or have permanently stored.

Taking into consideration how filter bubbles work, along with other similar data collectors such as cookies, is it any wonder various devices and accounts are being hacked into?  Isn't the phone-hacking scandal just a mere example of us becoming our own worst enemy?  Although I am far from condoning the scandal, or be it hacking of any kind, as I feel it is journalism of the lowest sort, I do feel the scandal was a disaster waiting to happen.  With growing social media sites, and an obsession with the World Wide Web, information about ourselves is constantly being transmitted and shared in places that we are not even aware of.

If anything, the phone-hacking scandal may have done us some good; for too long we've been ignorant as to how much information we've been sharing online and the scandal has made us stop for a second and address that.  In regards to what the scandal has done for journalism; the verdict is divided.  Yes the phone-hacking scandal was both unacceptable and illegal, but so are many of the apps used to check on an errant spouse, but we cannot simply tar evey journalist, or piece of journalism with the same brush.  However, it has addressed that this kind of journalism is not to be tolerated and that it will (eventually) get its comeuppance. It has also perpetuated (to a degree) what journalism is all about; the fact it’s controversial, engaging and at times hard-hitting, and that’s what we as humans love about it.

To some extent, the phone-hacking scandal reveals a case of pot calling the kettle black. We are all perhaps guilty of making premature judgments before assessing our own actions and evaluating our own lives.  One should therefore consider pointing the finger with far less haste.

No comments:

Post a Comment