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UK blue-chip hacking scandal grows

UK police have revealed a secret dossier of more than 300 organisations and individuals that are allegedly involved in what has become known as the 'blue chip' hacking scandal.

It has been alleged that companies and individuals hired private detectives to obtain sensitive information, with methods such as phone and computer hacking, blagging, wire-tapping, and through the use of corrupt police officers.

Police have supplied Members of Parliament (MPs) with a list of 102 businesses and people who are believed to be involved in obtaining private information through underhand and unlawful means.

However, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has owned up to having in its possession a further list of 200 clients, that it has not yet turned over to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

According to The Daily Mail, this is a sign that “the use of corrupt investigators by law firms, banks, insurance companies and celebrities in the so-called ‘hidden’ hacking scandal” is far more serious than previously suspected.

Privacy issues

The Metropolitan Police Force has the list, but is refusing to publish it, and is reportedly also attempting to block the publication of the original Soca list that is in the MPs’ hands, although the list does not form part of any criminal investigation.

Soca too has said it does not “participate in, endorse or authorise any further publication of the information”, claiming publication of the information could be a breach of the Human Rights Act, and the right to a private and family life.

It also voiced concerns that publishing the list could damage the commercial interests of the organisations involved. However, the pressure is on at Westminster for MPs to defy Soca and publish the list using Parliamentary privilege.

The Telegraph reported that one private detective, who admitted involvement in hacking and blagging for well-known businesses, said the practice had been well-established for decades.

The Independent has said a crackdown on rogue private investigators is in the offing, and that Home Office ministers will this week confirm plans to license private detectives. Under the planned crackdown, investigators found guilty of hacking or impersonation to obtain private information will be banned from holding a licence.

Licence-seekers will need to attend a training course and be able to prove they understand laws on privacy, bribery and data protection. They will also be screened to see if they have a criminal record.

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