New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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OUPblog: Oxford University Press's Academic Insights for the Thinking World, February 2011


The ongoing police investigation into phone-hacking in Britain by the tabloid News of the World has revealed the widespread use of surveillance techniques by private actors, with predictable outrage expressed at the violations of privacy. Yet the recent inquiries only began in earnest after a major story in the New York Times.

This is the paradox of today’s media: investigative journalism is often key to revealing abuses of surveillance powers, yet the commercial reality of today's market drives unscrupulous journalists themselves towards ever more dubious methods.

That market has been radically altered by the "new media", with WikiLeaks as its poster-child - ably exploiting the Internet's capacity for widespread dissemination of data, but at the expense of credible efforts at analysis or minimizing the potential harm to named individuals. It is "journalism" by quantity rather than quality.

These two trends - muck-raking and unfiltered dissemination - become all the more serious when linked to the extraordinary tools of surveillance available to government and, increasingly, private actors.

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phone-hacking, surveillance, privacy, intelligence, Britain, CCTV, DNA, journalism, new media