Years ago a friend lived next door to a married woman who was having an affair. We knew about the affair because, by some cross-line quirk of the phone system, you could listen in on her calls and so we did.
Eavesdropping has gone on since the year dot, since before there were eaves even, and phone-hacking is really just hi-tech eavesdropping. It often works out for the public good, like when the hypocrisies of the rich and powerful are exposed. There are probably more than a few women in Paris and New York who wish someone had hacked Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s mobile.
But what about the non-celeb families of Millie Dowler and dead soldiers? No doubt that eavesdropping on private grief is a disgrace, but what do you want to do about it? More press regulation? Then you risk letting off those two-faced politicians, the same crowd who order phone-hacks on ordinary people every day via the security services.
Instead of forcing the press to close down its investigations, the government should tackle excesses by getting the media to open its books.
“Transparency is at the heart of our agenda for Government,” said David Cameron today.
“Open data can be a powerful tool to help empower citizens.”
The PM was talking about public services, but why not extend the “open data” principal to the media, which is a sort of public service? We would see who was hacking who and no paper would dare go after grieving parents for fear of the public reaction.
In the end someone let the cat out of the bag on my friend’s phone-fun; she was cold-shouldered and eventually moved out of the area.