How to avoid being spied at by private security companies

A Swiss expert told his story.

Mari Hauge ├ůsland, 11.09.2008 12:26

Jean-Phillippe Ceppi, producer at the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, has recently worked a case where a private security company spied at a non-governmental organization (NGO), and told his story at the GIJ Conference Thursday.

The Nestle/Securitas story:
How NGO’s and journalists are secretly infiltrated was the headline of his seminar, which circled about his Nestle/Securitas case.
 
The story started autumn 2007, when Ceppi and his colleague learned from a whistleblower that the private security company Securitas were spying on the NGO Attac, for their client Nestlé, one of the largest food companies in the world.
 
The Securitas agent infiltrated the organizations mailing lists, went through their garbage and attended meetings. A lot of reports were made from the espionage, and through the whistleblower, Ceppi got access to all of it. The result of the year-long investigative project was a 26 minutes long documentary, which got strong reactions through-out all of Switzerland. The case is now up at the Swiss courts, whilst Ceppi has made a second documentary from the sources that came to him after the first one was revealed
 
At the seminar, he shared his list of tips on how to avoid being spied on:
  • You may be spied on too. Lock up your stuff and hide your notes.
  • If you have a whisleblower: check his legal situation, e.g. if there is a Whistleblower Act in your country.
  • Check the real I.D. of both your suspected moles and your sources. Code names are common. You may ask for a copy of their ID papers.
  • A physical description of your sources is crucial.
  • If you have a whistleblower, proceed to a total debriefing, including a written testimony and chronology for the project. Keep this with your files, so that it is crystal clear what has been agreed on.
  • Remember that pies are workers too. If you can, get their worksheets, salary slips and contracts.
  • Go for the reports! Access to these is fantastic, it’s the best material you can imagine.
  • Moles are hiding in mailing lists. Check them!
  • Public sources must elaborate more than just ”no comment” on your story.
  • Private security companies hate reputation damage, and hate it when journalists dig.
  • Practice exchange with your colleagues.