In 2007, an undercover reporter engaged by the BBC applied for a job with a company operating call centres in Scotland. The company’s customers included banks, insurance companies and telecommunication companies. The call centres were given access to the operating systems of their customers and to extensive information about the financial affairs of the customers of these institutions. The reporter in due course signed an employment contract which included a clause whereby she agreed not to disclose any trade secrets or other confidential information. She also undertook not to remove documents containing any confidential information from her employer’s premises without authorisation. More specifically, she agreed not to communicate with any employee of any media organisation regarding the business of the call centre company.
The reported used a concealed camera to record video footage within the company’s premises. She wrote down details of bank accounts of customers and took these away with her. She gave this material to a BBC presenter and the BBC subsequently intended to broadcast some of the material in a television programme. Litigation followed, but the Court refused to grant the call centre company an interim interdict restraining the broadcast. The Court pointed out that the purpose of the broadcast was to expose bank account and credit card fraud which constituted a major criminal activity. There was considerable public interest in the television programme, and the kind of material which was disclosed was not highly confidential or highly sensitive. The Court did not accept that material obtained by an unlawful act necessarily became so tainted that it could never be used under any circumstances.
See 12.4 2007 Communications Law 140.