A board member of the Metropolitan Police Authority has asked Scotland Yard to investigate the allegation that News Corp employees stalked subjects by “pinging” their cell phones:
Scotland Yard, still reeling from the alleged police role in Britain's phone hacking scandal, was asked Thursday to investigate another explosive claim: that journalists bribed officers to locate people by tracking their cell phone signals.
The practice is known as "pinging" because of the way cell phone signals bounce off relay towers as they try to find reception.
Jenny Jones, a member of the board that oversees the Metropolitan Police Authority, cited claims that reporters at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid paid off corrupt police officers to trace cell phones.
Cell phone companies allow law enforcement officers to conduct automated “pings” to track suspects. Two former NOTW journalists including the late Sean Hoare have alleged that police were bribed $500 per trace to use the system:
The allegation was made by the late Sean Hoare, a former News of the World reporter who spoke to the New York Times about skullduggery at the tabloid. Hoare — who was fired in 2005 — said that officers were paid nearly $500 (300 pounds) per trace. The paper cited a second unnamed former News of the World journalist as corroborating Hoare's claim.
Hoare was found dead on Monday at his home near London; police say the death is not suspicious.
Jones asked Scotland Yard to examine the records of all cases in which police accessed phone-tracking data "to ensure those were valid requests."
In an interview with The Associated Press, Jones said that going through the cell phone tracing requests "is a relatively simple way of finding corrupt officers" given that it would be clear who was being targeted and when.
Additionally, NOTW is alleged to have hacked credit card accounts to help locate their targets:
Journalists on the tabloid – which ceased publishing this week – are also said to have gained access to targets’ credit card accounts to see where they had been spending money, helping locate them...
The technique was said to have been used to track James Hewitt, a former lover of Diana, Princess of Wales, after he published a book about their affair.