Clandestine Methods

  • Clandestine methods: Principles

    In journalism, clandestine methods include: recording a scene or statements with hidden technical devices; conducting an interview without first identifying oneself as a journalist; asking someone else to gather information on our behalf using any of these methods; and using concealment techniques when we gather digital information.

    Since we are aware that unwarranted use of clandestine methods could impair the credibility of our reporting, we will ascertain beforehand that the method chosen clearly serves the public interest and is lawful. We will consult appropriate editorial management on the method we propose to use and its purpose, whether material will be gathered mainly for research on the subject or for publication in our report.

  • Hidden cameras and microphones: Justification for recording

    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. We will consult with the Managing Editor before undertaking clandestine recordings.

    Public places:

    We may choose to conceal our recording equipment in a public place – anywhere the public has unrestricted access – to record behavior that is a matter of public interest and that the presence of the camera might alter.

    We may also choose to do so where a hostile crowd or individuals threaten the safety of journalists and that our ability to do our work would be hindered.

    Private places:

    Before bringing hidden recording equipment into private spaces, to which access is restricted, we will ensure the following:

    • We have credible information indicating the likelihood of illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust, or indicating that such activity likely exists within the sector of society or industry being investigated;
    • We are confident that an open attempt to gather the information sought would fail; and,
    • The information sought would be useful evidence for a demonstration of illegal or antisocial activity or abuse of trust.

    We will consult with the Managing Editor to confirm our assessment of the situation, and will take care to comply with legal restrictions before undertaking clandestine recordings in private places.

  • Hidden cameras and microphones: Justification of publication of material gathered

    Clandestinely recorded material will be carefully evaluated. Any proposed broadcast or online posting of a clandestine recording must be approved by the Director.

    The following are examples where clandestine recording and publication of material could be warranted:

    Material recorded in a public place:

    Material gathered in a public place to illustrate behaviour, attitudes or reactions that would otherwise be impossible to document. We will ensure that the editing of the material results in a faithful representation of the reality being reported.

    We will also take into account certain concepts specific to Quebec civil law, such as the right to one’s likeness, and ensure, in consultation with the Law Department when in doubt, that we properly understand the scope of these concepts and how they apply in specific cases.

    Material illustrating an illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust:

    If selected excerpts of the material gathered reveal illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust, we will attempt to confront the person exposed in the clandestine recording and will take his or her reaction into account in our report.

    Clandestine recording by a third party:

    Sometimes a person outside CBC provides a recording made without the knowledge of one or more of the persons recorded. We first and foremost seek to verify that the recording was made lawfully. We will also seek to verify its authenticity.

    We will ensure that the editing of the material results in a faithful representation of the reality being reported on.

    If the recording reveals illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust or contains information of public interest, its publication in whole or in part may be warranted, provided we have attempted to confront the persons recorded and have taken their reactions into account in our report. Publication of a clandestine recording provided by a third party requires the Director’s approval.

  • Drones

    Sometimes new technologies change the way journalists are able to gather images and information.

    Use of these technologies generally does not change the way we interpret our standards and practices.

    One such example is the use of drones.

    Images captured by cameras attached to drones may violate the principle of respect for privacy. Any capture or dissemination of material involving this principle should be assessed against the public interest in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy standards elsewhere in this document.

    Where appropriate, we may also refer to provisions for Clandestine Methods.

    We should be aware of legal regulations concerning the use of drones.
  • Concealment of identity as journalist

    We generally practice our reporting openly. However, there are times, while investigating a matter of public interest, a reporter will conceal his or her occupation and true purpose and pose as an ordinary citizen. We will consult with the Director before doing so. Our overriding priority will be sound public service journalism. Whatever the means used to contact a source without identifying oneself as a journalist (in person, by telephone, by email, through social networks), we will attempt to confront the source and take his or her reaction into account in our report.

    When the investigation bears on illegal or antisocial behaviour or abuse of trust and the gathering of information of public interest, the journalist may need to infiltrate an organization to get first-hand information. We take into account possible safety issues for the journalist involved.

    Before resorting to infiltration we will ensure that the following conditions are met:

    • We have a credible source that gives us reason to believe a subject of our reporting is behaving illegally or antisocially or abusing a trust;
    • An open approach would have little chance of obtaining the information sought or of confirming the behaviour we seek to report;
    • Infiltration allows us to gather the best evidence of the behaviour in question.

    Any plan to infiltrate will be submitted to the Director for prior approval.

  • Intercepting conference calls

    We respect the privacy of individuals, groups and organizations when they conduct conversations via conference calls.

    As a rule, we do not attempt to hack in, or listen in without being openly invited to participate in a conference call. However, if a participant on the call offers to share the information after the fact, the principles for our treatment of sources would guide our use of the material.

    We may consider listening in or recording without the knowledge of all the participants, if all the following conditions have been met:

    • We have been given access to the conference call with the consent of at least one participant to the call;
    • We have credible information indicating the likelihood of illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust;
    • We are confident that an open attempt to gather the information sought would fail; and,
    • The information sought would be useful evidence for a demonstration of illegal or antisocial activity or abuse of trust;
    • We have sought prior authorization from the Director.

    If the conference call was recorded, the use of the recording on air or online is subject to the conditions set in Hidden Cameras and Microphones – Justification of Publication of Material Gathered.

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