News of the World May Have Stalked Subjects Through Cell Phone 'Pinging'

2:13 PM PST 07/21/2011 by Stuart Kemp
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Investigation begins into whether cell phone tracking data was sold by the police to the paper's reporters.

LONDON -- News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and deputy COO James Murdoch may have shut down The News of the World, faced a Parliamentary grilling into the paper’s alleged phone hacking practices, and been forced to pull out of a bid to buy the remaining shares in BSkyB, but still there is more to come.

The Murdochs now face potential blowback about phone tracking, or "pinging."

Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) member Jenny Jones has asked Scotland Yard to investigate allegations that News of the World reporters were able to purchase data from police about a person's location for £300 per request.

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Jones told the Associated Press that going through police phone tracing requests "is a relatively simple way of finding corrupt officers...the information is there and you can check."

The inquiry comes on the back of claims by Sean Hoare, the original News of the World whistleblower, days before he was found dead at his home on Monday. Hoare had claimed first to the New York Times that such practice was going on at the News of the World.

Such data, sourced from police surveillance systems, could provide the tracker with a person’s location and give the reporters the target’s location.

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Hoare called it “pinging." This occurs when a phone's signal bounces off relay towers as it searches for reception, and is pinpointed by triangulating the results.

Hoare told reporters at the New York Times and The Guardian that this sort of location information was used in the newsroom to help with stories as recently as last week.

Besides pinging, News Corp.'s News International unit is also in the hot seat for the unauthorized tapping into or hacking of mobile communications.

A British parliamentary panel on Wednesday accused News International of "deliberate attempts" to thwart its probe. The panel said in its scathing report, "we deplore the response of News International to the original investigation into hacking" and argued that the police investigations had been a "catalog of failures."

Sofia M. Fernandez contributed to this report.

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