The hacking of confidential treatment records at the Vastaamo psychotherapy patient records company is shocking both in scope and nature. There may be attempts to feed the media info gained by the illegal hack.
Responsible journalists act ethically and in line with the Guidelines for Journalists. The hacking of Vastaamo and resulting efforts to blackmail people affected by the hack require sharpened vigilance.
The union has issued a checklist to help journalists covering the Vastaamo hacking scandal, as the press always has to decide independently what articles are to be published. The checklist includes the following points:
- Publication of hacked confidential health data from the Vastaamo Psychotherapy Center contravenes the Guidelines for Journalists and is illegal.
- If a victim of the hacking talks publicly about the hack, you can ask them to comment on the matter.
- If you otherwise hear about a victim of the hack, it is not appropriate to ask them for a comment. It would be particularly wrong to pressure the victim for an interview.
- It is possible that a third party may approach you with a tip-off for an article. Journalists have the responsibility in all events to find out the source of information, and to consider a source’s motives in revealing information. Be especially careful to ensure that any tip-offs you get do not originate from the Vastaamo hack.
- You might come across material hacked from the Vastaamo database when you anyway search for information. Handle such material very responsibly and if necessary notify the police.
- Consider the extent to which your published articles could go towards revealing the identity of victims of the hack or provide an audience for illegally published health data.
- Editors who decide on buying and publishing stories should also be especially vigilant. You may be offered stories or story ideas based on the information of the victims of the Vastaamo hack. Check the sources accurately.
- If you are offered stories or story ideas based on health information that’s been illegally obtained, tell your superiors and, if necessary, the police.
- You may get offered hacked health information or ideas for stories based on it after a long time, even years.
- It is the responsibility of the media to ensure that its comments sections do not contain illegal material.
- Sections 27, 28, 30, 34, 12, and 3 of the Guidelines for Journalists (see link above) particularly relate to the Vastaamo hacking case and how it is reported. Points 1 and 2 of the Guidelines deal with the parameters for making material public.