Media academic warns over digital surveillance, seeks new ethical model
Report – By Anna Majavu
A leading journalism academic has voiced concern at the high levels of digital surveillance facing journalists today and has urged journalists to adopt a new ethical model of reporting for social good.
Dr Mark Pearson, professor of journalism and social media at Griffith University in Australia and the Australian correspondent for Reporters Without Borders, spoke last night at the inaugural UNESCO World Press Freedom Day 2013 lecture, organised by AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.
The lack of press freedom in the Asia-Pacific region was well documented with media in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Fiji needing government licences to operate, and journalists in Malaysia facing 53-year-old “internal security” laws under which they could be detained for long periods for “prejudicing national security”.
But Professor Pearson said his concerns were not limited to these cases, and that his major worry was the “ever-increasing government regulation of media and social media everywhere”, including the anti-terror laws introduced all over the world since 9/11, modelled on the US Patriot Act.
These laws “typically give intelligence agencies unprecedented powers to monitor the communications of all citizens. There is also an inordinate level of surveillance, logging and tracking technologies in use in the private sector – often held in computer clouds or multinational corporate servers in jurisdictions subject to search and seizure powers of foreign governments” said Dr Pearson.
This had disturbing implications for journalists’ protection of their confidential sources, especially if these sources were government or corporate “whistleblowers”, Dr Pearson added.
Investigative reporters today potentially had to contend with geo-locational tracking of their phones and vehicles, tollpoint capture of their motorway entry and exit, easily accessible phone, email and social media records, CCTV in private and public places, and facial recognition in other people’s images, perhaps posted to Facebook.