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Christopher Beanland

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How it Feels to Have Your Phone Hacked

Posted: 16/09/11 01:00

The great tabloid scandal of 2011 throws up one last point of order: what was actually in the messages that were hacked? And how does it feel when your privacy is invaded?

Innocent people and - worse still - victims of tragedies, like Milly Dowler and Christian Small, were caught up in a sordid little game of hide 'n' seek perpetrated by dishonourable tabloid hacks, each aided by their private investigator underlings. Of course they went too far. Far too far.

Breaking into the phones of normal people like this was tantamount to unzipping your flies at a funeral and urinating on the coffin while pointedly barking out the lyrics to Rage Against The Machine's stroppy anthem Killing In The Name Of.

But in the case of the many celebrities who have been so vociferous in their condemnation of this ultimately cack-handed and not even especially successful (from a story point-of-view) practice, are we quite so sympathetic?

Some famous names have been adopting the kind of appalled facial expressions and linguistic tics that a horrified Ian Paisley would use were he to be stripped naked, locked in a cage with Kylie Minogue's Greatest Hits piped in through high quality speakers, and lowered slowly by crane into a pumping central London gay club at 2am, while quivering uncontrollably.

Do the wronged celebrities really have much to worry about? Panted, priapic insistences left on people's phones surely aren't the norm. What's more likely is that you'd uncover something a bit more everyday. A message from Steve Coogan's dentist about root canal work or from Graham Taylor's greengrocer about a delay in "that shipment of mangoes"?

Bearing this predicted banality in mind, would you let someone hack into your own phone?

A young London theatre company called 503 is exploring the hacking scandal in a tangential way by breaking into the voicemails of journalists, stealing the messages left on their phones, and crafting a script using these missives.

Last week - with consent duly obtained - my own shoddy mobile was taken unaware; its messages harvested by the team of playwrights. The verdict from the theatre company? "Sorry. They're too boring." Oh? The most exciting decision I make these days is this one: cheese and onion or salt and vinegar. "Can we do it again when you have more messages?"

Being aware of the hacking procedure taking place in front of your eyes feels like swinging your patio doors wide open, inviting your friends in to your house, and offering them the chance to steal your flatscreen TV (not that I have patio doors, a flatscreen TV, or friends). All the while you sit idly by, blinking and pretending that it's all nothing more stressful than a friendly cat rubbing itself against your leg.

Will my dull haul of hacked messages make the cut? It almost seemed worth getting a colleague with a booming, blustery Ulster accent to leave an erroneous voicemail on my phone instead: "Hi! It's Ian! Surprisingly I ended up having a pretty bloody good time at that club the other night. Once they let me out of the cage, that is! I even got the phone number of this hot guy called Cliff. Fancy doing it again sometime? I'll wear my leather shorts. Peace."

Hacked, the play on which the voicemails of the journalists is based, opens at Theatre 503 in Battersea, London, on September 27.

 

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