One of my favourite phrases on the subject of integrity, particularly when confronted with those apparently "grey areas" common in Asia where, what constitutes Western morals and practice is merely seen as a "pay as you go" system, is "there is no right way to do the wrong thing!" Not sure where I stole it from in the first place, but I think a friend got it from a Toby Keith country song called "Ain't No Right Way".
When I started to think about this piece, I also stumbled across another appropriate phrase - this time from a highly respected journalist (now yet another oxymoron) called Ed Murrow who said "We cannot make good news out of bad practice". Quite! Pity the Murdoch's didn't see that one!
I think enough has been said by just about everyone on the subject of the Murdoch family and all their associates, and this is one that is likely to run and run. Mind you, other tabloids might keep the pressure up, just to try and hope that no one looks too carefully at their own practices. I think there may be a few skeletons in a few cupboards. So, no more from me on that issue, but you know what? Around the time these particular bits of nasty news were hitting the fan, I had occasion to look into a related subject.
And I got an unpleasant surprise.
A friend had remarked that their young teenage son's mobile phone had been left at home one evening, and it was buzzing away merrily in his absence. Closer inspection revealed that the buzzing was related to a live ongoing exchange of messages between a couple of other children - without the intervention of their own son. Still with me? So, how was their son picking up the messages? Spyware? Or had he merely been involved in the earlier exchange and not logged off. In this particular case, I never discovered. Parents didn't want to reveal to their son that they had been snooping on his mobile, and the matter rests - unexplained.
But as my curiosity had been piqued, I went off to see how easy it would be for an amateur to spy on someone else; not a highly trained expert employed by the media.
I found the opening lines of an advertisement that read "Do you suspect your child or employee is abusing their SMS"? It goes on "If you're worried that your children or employees are using smartphones inappropriately, then ********** *** is just for you. SMS (text messaging) has become a popular way for people to communicate. Are your kids involved with texting dangers? What are they secretly texting about? Are they visiting porn sites on the phone? You have the right to know" (The asterisks cover the name of the company - they can do their own advertising!)
For a mere USD130 - say HK$1000, you can spy on your kids, your spouse, your domestic helper, your employees...
And from another company, a top of the range spy kit coming in at USD350 promises "...One of the real cool features of ********, is the ability to track the location of the target phone. Using this feature, you'll know the EXACT location of the cell phone in real time."
And if you are the target - you have no idea that it is there.
In George Orwell's book 1984, one of the features is the pervasive surveillance undertaken by the State. No place to hide, most of the time. So, it seems, although we have taken a little longer to get there, we are entering an era where if you want private information you do not any more have to employ the services of a slightly seedy looking private eye with an old raincoat, a battered camera, and an ability to hide round corners. You just bug the phone. At a fraction of the cost.
And if this is available to the public, Governments must have had it a long time ago. And it is a technology that is going to become less, not more, expensive.
So, before you pack your suitcase for that naughty little liaison somewhere you shouldn't be, just check your mobile phone! Big Brother - or someone even MORE formidable - might just be watching.