Doormat-ologist needed

Richard Clayton richard at
Wed Sep 8 12:04:19 BST 2010

In article <4C872C4A.3030805 at>, Peter Sommer
<peter at> writes

>On 08/09/2010 04:38, Peter Fairbrother wrote:
>> Caspar Bowden (travelling private e-mail) wrote:
>>> Doormat-ologists' opinion please of:
>>> erception .Addressing the home affairs select committee today John
>>> Yates, the assistant Metropolitan police commissioner, repeated
>>> earlier claims by police that cases of hacking into voicemails could
>>> only be prosecuted if the victim had not yet listened to their
>>> messages.

This isn't a surprise at all -- it's been the general view for some time
(and AIUI, is regularly applied to SMS messages -- which the telco often
keeps a copy of....)  It is also consistent with the view taken in the
NTL v Ispwich case [yes I know, that was unfortunate as well] as to what
"transmission" meant.

I think it is also consistent with the US approach to the matter (there,
they have a quirk that after 6 months of storage, whether read or not,
the emails are available to Law Enforcement!  there are presently moves
over there to change this, as being inconsistent with modern approaches
to keeping your mailbox "in the cloud")

>The offence that would work in these circumstances is s1 Computer Misuse Act 
>1990:  "unauthorised access to a computer".

I very much agree, pretty much whatever the method of access, they will
have been communicating with a computer and would have known that they
were not authorised.

Comments at the time this last came up suggested that the journalists
were using default passwords to access the voicemail (most people don't
change those). I think possibly the people who were commenting were
under the impression that some sort of surreptitious 3-way call was
being established, which would of course be interception.

richard                                                   Richard Clayton

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary 
Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. Benjamin Franklin 11 Nov 1755
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