Friday 20 September 2019

INM to appoint external experts to examine governance of editorial data

INM
INM
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

External experts are to be appointed by Independent News & Media (INM) to examine governance of editorial data.

The move comes in the wake of of a major suspected data breach at the company, which owns Independent.ie.

Staff were informed of the move today in a circular from editor-in-chief Stephen Rae.

Also announced were plans for the introduction of an updated newsroom data governance code.

This will involve a “triple lock” mechanism where approval will be needed from three senior individuals if any editorial employee’s data is to be accessed by the company.

There are rare circumstances where this may be necessary, such as in the defence of litigation or complying with court orders.

The code was developed following discussions with the National Union of Journalists.

Earlier this week INM told the stock market that as a result of a data security incident in 2014 there is a risk personal data held on the company’s servers may have been put at risk of unauthorised disclosure.

The statement said the incident involved a number of INM’s IT back-up tapes, containing back-up copies of electronic data stored on the company’s servers, being provided to a third party service provider on the instructions of then INM chairman Leslie Buckley.

Mr Buckley declined to comment on the statement, but has previously said he plans to robustly defend his position.

In his circular to staff, Mr Rae said: “It is a testimony to the integrity and ethos in our newsroom that the concern foremost in the minds of journalists over the past number of days has been the protection of our sources and the integrity of our systems for internal and external providers.

“For journalists there can be no more fundamental requirement to carry out our job in an efficient and effective manner than the protection of our sources.

“Therefore, over the course of the past week, I together with members of the senior editorial and management team have been working hard to examine what further measures can be put in place to ensure that the information/data that you receive and create through the IT systems is safe and secure."

Mr Rae continued: “Through this combination of internal dialogue combined with a very constructive engagement with the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) we are introducing a newsroom data governance code for all data retention on our systems.

“This “triple lock” code sets out safeguards for editorial data and requirements for authorisation to access systems at Independent News & Media.”

He said the code had been approved by editorial management and the NUJ and would be included in INM’s overall editorial code of practice.

“I should say that Michael Doorly, CEO has supported and welcomed the creation of this enhanced system of protection for journalists and their sources,” said Mr Rae.

The operation of this “triple lock” will function for email, phone, desktop and CMS, which is the company's content management system.

“It will pertain to all internal data created and any information received from external sources,” said Mr Rae.

“In addition to these practical system changes, we will also introduce a monthly editorial/IT meeting, chaired by editorial, to specifically address governance issues in particular. These meetings will also allow us a new platform to feed through any additional matters which are raised through ongoing engagement with our staff.

“We are now also working towards appointing an external company to examine the governance of the IT/editorial information flow.  This is an issue which has been raised by many you in discussions with managers and the NUJ.  It is something that we are moving on now and we will keep you informed on progress.”

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