Famous British soccer player, David Beckham, has suffered a data leak that he attempted to prevent from being published. The data, which was stolen by hackers at some point since 2013, had received a high court injunction preventing it from being published. Unfortunately for Beckham and his legal team, however, media outlets throughout Europe published the material anyway.
The confidential information was originally stolen from a Portuguese company that is associated with Beckham’s PR team and spokesperson Simon Oliveira. The Portuguese firm learned of the hack in 2015, when an individual approached the firm with a £1 million blackmail deal. Last December, Beckham won a high court appeal to prevent the highly sensitive and confidential emails from being published by the Sunday Times.
Among other things, the emails contained messages from Beckham that called members of the UK’s Honours Committee “a bunch of c***$”. Beckham (who apparently fancied himself ‘Sir Beckham’), it would appear, made the shocking outburst after he was turned down for a knighthood. Now those dreams are over forever, one would imagine.
Despite a court injunction in the UK, European media outlets including Germany’s Der Spiegel and France’s L’Equipe published the damning contents of the emails at the weekend. Perhaps most shocking of all was Beckham’s comments in an email to PR chief Simon Oliveira. In the email, Beckham expressed distaste at being asked to donate a large cash donation to Unicef (an organization for which he is a global ambassador). Beckham apparently feels that donating should be left to others, despite his position.
In addition, reports claim that Beckham was refused a knighthood by the Queen’s Honours Committee due to concerns over his tax position. So far, no more news has emerged about what those concerns might be, but news of possible tax dodging is bound to draw intrigue. On a more positive note (for Beckham fans) despite the fact that the British tax office did put “a red flag” on Beckham’s file, the emails are said to have been full of insistent innocence.
British Newspapers Publish
Following European media outlets’ decision to publish the news, British newspapers followed suit, with several outlets deciding to publish the story. A source close to Beckham made the following comments:
“It is a weakness in the law. Because it is across multiple jurisdictions, it is almost impossible to do anything of substance.”
The chain reaction commenced when a Romanian news outlet, the Black Sea, published the story on Friday. The story appeared with a caption that said “published with the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) network, with research by the Sunday Times.” That article understandably criticized Beckham for his “angry pursuit of a knighthood.”
Being a massive digital privacy advocate, I can’t help feeling a little bit sorry for Beckham. After all, these were supposed to be private and confidential messages. However, this data leak is a stark reminder of the care that people in positions of authority (no matter what that social standing might be) need to take. Hackers like Anonymous are more than just cybercriminals – they are social justice vigilantes.
Rightly or wrongly, they are a self-imposed force for good who make it their mission to expose wrongdoing and corruption of all kinds. With this in mind, people with the most to lose need to start acting responsibly at all times. After all, it seems silly to aspire to knighthood if you aren’t actually acting like a chivalrous gentleman.
Globalized News Distribution
Sara Mansoori, a media barrister at Matrix Chambers, has come forward with comments that explain the difficulties present in our global, internet-driven, media distribution networks:
“This illustrates one of the difficulties in obtaining injunctions in a globalised, internet-based society. The other option is for claimants to seek injunctions in all different jurisdictions but that is not a practical way to proceed for anybody.”
The Sunday Times, which was the only newspaper directly gagged by the court injunction, released a short statement on its front page following the worldwide dissemination of the Beckham story:
“The Sunday Times has been gagged by an injunction preventing it from reporting details about a celebrity’s personal and professional life. The judge anonymised the individual using initials. The newspaper is in legal proceedings.”
According to Beckham’s PR team, a number of the emails that were leaked to the media were in fact doctored. One example of that tampering is the alleged insertion of swear words where there were none before. However, the Beckham camp has admitted that many of them are genuine, including emails in which it was discussed whether Unicef should pay for a flight to Cambodia, where Beckham was due to appear as a goodwill ambassador.
The good news for Beckham fans is that he was spotted out and about and in good spirits, yesterday, despite the damning press releases. In addition, Unicef came to the footballer’s rescue with the following comment:
“We are extremely proud of the 7 Fund [Beckham’s Unicef fund] and all it has achieved for children.”
Opinions are writer’s own.
Title image credit: walterericsy/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Iryna Rasko/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Respiro/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: CIHAT BASKAN/Shutterstock.com