One simple legal change that could’ve prevented the entire hacking scandal

July 14, 2011

The Data Protection Act makes provision for anyone to access information held on them by a given organisation. However, it has several exemptions from this, including:

Personal data which are processed only for the special purposes are exempt [if] the processing is undertaken with a view to the publication by any person of any journalistic, literary or artistic material.

You don’t have a right to find out what information newspapers have on you. In other words, if a newspaper has hacked your phone, you don’t have the right to find that out.

I don’t think journalists can be trusted with that exemption. I think it’s time for it to be removed.



2 Responses to “One simple legal change that could’ve prevented the entire hacking scandal”

  1. Phil Ruse said

    I agree with the sentiment but wouldn’t that prevent investigative journalists from building a case? As a dodgy character I could ‘sweep the newspapers’ for any info and change/hide my affairs accordingly.

    • Adam Bell said

      The Act requires that any information is provided within 40 days. While I understand your worry, it’s not clear that accessing information held on you under such a timescale would enable you to forestall anything but the most long-running investigation. It’s also the case that knowing what a newspaper has on you doesn’t prevent it from being true.

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