UK broadcaster Sky News admits email hacking

UK broadcaster Sky News admits email hacking

Summary: British broadcaster Sky News, part owned by Rupert Murdoch's media empire, says it hacked into criminals' email accounts to "serve the public interest".

SHARE:
9

British broadcaster Sky News says executives authorised the hacking of emails on two separate occasions, claiming it was in the "public interest".

The online and television news service, part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, said in a statement that does "not take such decisions lightly or frequently".

It comes after months of government inquiries into phone and email hacking, with two separate police investigations looking into police corruption and claims made by public figures.

The broadcaster revealed it hacked into the email account of John Darwin, the "canoe man" who faked his own death more than a decade ago, and was subsequently jailed for deception in 2008 along with his wife, Anne.

The reporter, Gerard Tubb, Sky News' northern England correspondent, built up a database of emails that he believed could have proven the prosecution's case when Darwin's wife stood trial, according to The Guardian. She had pleaded not guilty, while her husband pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud and deception. The two were jailed but released in 2011.

Sky News said that after accessing the emails, it handed the evidence it collected to the police, which was "pivotal" to the court case. Cleveland Police said in a statement that it had "conducted an initial review into these matters and can confirm that enquiries are ongoing into how the emails were obtained."

The same reporter also accessed the email accounts of a suspected child sex offender and his wife, but did not lead to any details being published, according to a statement released by the broadcaster.

Sky News' managing editor Simon Cole approved the hacking. John Ryley, the head of Sky News, said the decision required "finely balanced judgement", and stood by the reporter.

Sky News' parent company, British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) is being investigated by UK communications regulator Ofcom. The independent inquiry could find BSkyB being found not a "fit and proper person" to hold a broadcasting licence, which could have drastic effects on the company.

News organisations can break the law in some instances for reasons to serve the public interest. Sky News cited an example of a journalist buying an Uzi submachine gun in the UK, a weapon outlawed by gun-control laws. In some cases, broadcasters and news organisations can break secrecy laws if their home governments are themselves in breach of the law.

But the controls and delicate balance of reporting can often find the news agencies in trouble.

Intercepting email is illegal under the UK's Computer Misuse Act, which can send people to prison for 10 years for serious breaches. Since the start of the phone hacking scandal, an independent inquiry was set up, a Murdoch-owned newspaper was shut down, and many current and former News Corp. journalists and editors, including its chief executive Rebekeh Brooks, were arrested.

A Sky News spokesperson was unavailable for comment beyond the statement given.

Related:

Topics: Collaboration, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I came to say one thing

    I totally misread the title as Murdoch-owned Skynet. Then I panicked and reread it.
    Aerowind
    • No

      ... but i think he has a controlling stake in Cyberdyne Systems.

      ;)
      thx-1138_
  • My judgement

    "News organisations can break the law in some instances for reasons to serve the public interest."
    In which law is this enshrined, before I pass my 'finely balanced judgement'.

    I think several people should go to prison for the maximum term and companies be fined 8+ figure sums.
    Then we'll see if their judgement improves!
    jacksonjohn
  • Rationale does not excuse illegal behavior

    The end does not justify the means. The law was clearly broken by Sky News. The evidence turned over to law enforcement would not be allowed in U.S. courts, being fruit of a poisonous tree,

    Hacking is a pervasive pattern of behavior at News Corp.'s media properties. They are betraying their public trust in more ways than this besides. One nation's laws won't be enough to curtail their arrogant lack of respect for law and individual rights.
    djchandler
    • Yeah, sure, whatever you say. But, aren't you being selectively outraged?

      The fact is that, news organizations are always betraying the public trust, as can be witnessed by NBC/MSNBC (as examples), where they took the Zimmerman/Trayvon White case, and changed the content of the phone calls in order to make it sound like Zimmerman was saying things that were not in the recorded phone calls of that incident. And, that trust is being violated on a daily basis, by most media organizations, most of which are of the liberal persuasion. As an example, a representative of the AP was recorded laying all kinds of praise on Obama about his accomplishments, and about how Obamacare and the billion $ porkulus debacle were good for America and its recovery from, what the AP executive called, the Bush recession. That is bias in its clearest term and, a betrayal of the public trust, and a betrayal of all journalistic principles. And then, you're going to castigate News Corp while ignoring all of the many other violations of trust being exhibited on a daily basis by the liberal media? You have no grounds for being outraged if you can't see your own bias and ignorance of what's really going on.
      adornoe
  • Hey, Zack, don't forget to mention that, Sky News is owned by Murdoch and

    News Corp.

    Geez, man! Your bias is quite evident, and you showed it by making sure that, people came away knowing that, the hacking was done by, (are you ready???), Murdoch's News Corp, thru Sky News.

    I'll bet you wouldn't do the same with the NY Times or the BBC or CNN if they had done anything similar.

    That's not to excuse what the people involved did, but, try to not be so obvious with your bias.
    adornoe
    • If it was the BBC

      I'd be saying "state broadcaster and tax-payer funded BBC". I'm sure you get the idea. But considering that most, if not all the hacking done that's being investigated by the UK's Leveson inquiry was done by News Corp. in some way, I think the reader needs to know that it's happened again.
      zwhittaker
      • You don't get it,

        and it was about how you, repeatedly made sure that the readers understood that, Murdock and News Corp were the "evil entities" involved in the "wrongdoing". If it had been the BBC, a highly doubt that you would've even mentioned that, it was a government funded media corporation. Furthermore, it it had been a liberal-leaning media corporation, most of the media, including CBS and ZDNet, would have mentioned the events in passing and made sure that, it was left alone in the past and it wouldn't have been kept alive, but, since it's a media organization which liberals hate, the news story will live on until Murdock and/or News Corp are punished.
        adornoe
  • Unacceptable(androidtrainningcenter.blogspot.in )

    This is unacceptable in any case.UK government should take a strict action to stop such serious cyber crime.Email is our personal property

    androidtrainningcenter.blogspot.in
    AndroidTrainner