A Financial Times reporter accused by the Independent of listening in on sensitive Zoom meetings held by senior managers telling staff about salary cuts and furloughs has resigned.
Mark Di Stefano, who joined the FT from Buzzfeed in January, tweeted on Friday that he had resigned and was “going to take some time away and log off”.
Di Stefano had been accused of listening to the audio feed of video conference calls held by the Independent and its sister title the Evening Standard about responding to the financial impact of coronavirus.
The FT suspended Di Stefano, who broke the news of the meetings on Twitter at the same time as staff were being informed, after the Independent discovered the eavesdropping from an analysis of Zoom log files and alerted the newspaper’s managers.
“Last week, the FT received a complaint from the Independent that a reporter had joined a staff conference call without authorisation,” an FT spokeswoman said. “Access details had been shared with him. The journalist in question has now resigned from the company.
“The FT wishes to apologise to the Independent and the Evening Standard, which subsequently informed the FT that the same reporter had accessed a meeting it had held.”
Di Stefano’s actions raised questions about whether or not he had broken the law, given the meetings were not password protected.
Christopher Hutchings, a lawyer at Hamlins who has dealt with a number of phone hacking cases, says “Zoombombing” could be in breach of the Computer Misuse Act and data protection and privacy laws.
Di Stefano’s actions were in breach of the FT’s code of conduct, which states: “The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by … intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails. Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge … can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.”
Hutchings said there was no a public interest defence to invoke in the case. “I would be extremely doubtful that the journalist’s conduct and actions would enable him to rely on this argument,” he said.