HACKGATE DAY 493: Phone hacking investigations set for huge expansion

Sources close to police investigating the broader aspects of phone hacking today hinted that an entire new team may soon be set up to look at b2b espionage using hacking, blagging, and email surveillance. But published information continues to suggest that the meain threat to our liberties comes from Government.

Yesterday I was pointed at an intriguing piece in the New York Times on the subject of the drawn-out nature of Hackgate in the UK. The main interesting thing came right at the end: ‘Other allegations of phone hacking outside of Mr. Murdoch’s empire — including accusations that it took place at a large corporation — are likely to emerge, one person familiar with the investigations said.’

Regular Sloggers will know only too well that this is a bronco-bucking hobby-horse of mine. Hacking and blagging to get inside-track information on investment opportunities and company plans is rife in London – but now I do find myself wondering about the identity of that ‘large corporation’.

I’ve been doing some digging around today, in between getting ringing denials of Grexit preparations and confusing opinion poll data from Athens. To be honest, my police sources these days are a bit fringe, but one media luminary insists that the large corporation attracting Knacker’s attention at the Yard is a major bank in the UK. What he doesn’t know is WTF it might be.

If any Sloggers can throw light on this, the address as always is jawslog@gmail.com. This may sound a bit amateur-night to chaps in the Fourth Estate, but The Slog is proving to be an interesting experiment in what one might call Democratic Undercover. The euro banknotes contingency preparation for Grexit, for example, was confirmed by a Slog mole, but spotted by readers. The inside track on Jeremy *unt’s business ‘success’ was originally supplied by a Slogger. And the less attractive side of Nigel Farage has been almost entirely filled in by readers of this esteemed electronic organ.

For the time being however, what I can tell you is that a new sub-group team looking at purely commercial hacking and blagging espionage will be formed by the Akers of coppers now currently beavering day and night down at the Yard. I have a semi-retired West End plod to thank for this nugget, and also for his colourful observation that “there will be ex-coppers going down for this one. It’s like a back-alley version of security officers reporting to Putin’s goons: unbelievable in some ways, but true.”

But there is no need to use an army of unpaid snouts or tap up senior Met retirees in order to uncover disgraceful examples of lawless surveillance. According to figures obtained by using the Freedom of Information Act, around 1,000 civil servants working at the Department for Work and Pensions have been disciplined for accessing personal social security records. The Department for Health also saw more than 150 breaches occur over a 13-month period.

Between April 2010 and March 2011, 513 civil servants were found to have made “unauthorised disclosures of official, sensitive, private and/or personal information”. The year following from April 2011 to January 2012, more than 460 staff were disciplined for the same offence.

Another thing you could do to assess the degree of snooping on an industrial scale is listen to the Monarch. Although less than happy about Rupert Murdoch’s gargoyles listening in on her family’s mobile phone chatter, Elizabeth Windsor prettty openly told Parliament two weeks ago  that  the U.K. government will monitor all Web and email traffic, log all landline and mobile phone calls, and listen in on all those Skype calls we make to rellies on the other side of the world.

The full strength on all this can be read in a piece by Zak Whittaker at ZDNet. But I will leave you with yet another fact about one law for us and one for them.

Currently, under the Data Protection Act, it is a criminal offence to obtain or disclose personal data without permission or procure disclosure to other persons. The penalties for a criminal offence go up to £5,000 in a lower magistrates court, or an unlimited fine in a higher Crown court.

But civil servants doing it are ‘disciplined’. How, exactly –  by Lady Vixen Whiplash from Shepherd’s Market?