The Ethics of Snooping

A CBC News hidden-camera investigation into the world of offshore banking revealed bankers, lawyers and accountants providing advice on hiding money from Canadian tax authorities.

More than half of the offshore service providers tested with hidden cameras by the CBC in Canada and Barbados provided advice that wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny, according to CBC experts.

One of the schemes involved a Canadian-Swiss banker and his plan for hiding undeclared cash in Switzerland using a method that, a panel of experts consulted by CBC News said, is virtually “untraceable.”

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The CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices stipulates, on the subject of clandestine methods of news-gathering: “We will hide our recording equipment only in circumstances where we believe it would be difficult or impossible to gather the information by acting more openly.”

Only with the permission of management may producers infringe this guideline. In this case, management evidently gave permission.

Management is not always right. Before deciding whether in this case it was, one would have to know more about the situation than the author of this blog does.

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3 responses to “The Ethics of Snooping

  1. Elisabeth Ecker

    I am surprised that no criminals have taken advantage of gullible people by promising to safely putting their money offshore, or maybe they have. I presume it would be possible to gather the informations by acting more openly, but impossible to prove. Does this make it right?

  2. I am afraid few people seem to stick to the style guide anymore.
    Modern technology means hidden cameras can be anywhere. The current series seems a bit too intrusive.

  3. It’s often been investigative journalists who go where government will not or police cannot. We need a fearless press, and I cannot really see any reasons why tax evaders, bankers, lawyers, and accountants should be exempted from such examination, when no one else has exposed their practices. It’s the same reason famous whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden give for turning the rocks on government secret practices. Welcome to the brave new age – look at CSIS in trouble because its young new recruits have been hacking a little too zealously…