Aussie reporter arrested after ‘stealing’ Facebook photo

Beware: using a ‘private’ photo online is as risky as stealing a television, as one Australian reporter has found to his cost.

Ben Grubb wrote a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald about a Facebook flaw which allowed hackers to access supposedly private pictures. He was reporting on a conference in which security researcher Christian Heinrich hacked the Facebook account of rival security expert Chris Gatford’s wife, and used one of the photos to illustrate his piece.

What happened next is extraordinary. Two cops appeared and started quenstioning Grubb about the incident.

“Someone breaks into your house and they steal a TV and they give that TV to you and you know that TV is stolen,” Detective Superintendent Brian Hay explained to the SMH.

“The reality is the online environment is now an extension of our real community and if we go into that environment we have responsibilities to behave in a certain way.”

After half an hour of questioning, the officers demanded Grubb’s iPad, and told him he was under arrest for receiving unlawfully obtained property.

“What I had thought had been a simple case of answering some police questions had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. I felt as if I had been double-crossed,” says Grubb.

“It seemed ridiculous that I, as the ‘messenger’ who reported on what the police were now saying was a criminal matter, could now be the target.”

Grubb says he has since been ‘unarrested’, but that his iPad is still missing.

“I believed that, as a journalist, I had protections,” he says. “But it seems not. And to lose a device that contains not only private but work-related information is also another seriously alarming development for a journalist.”

There’s a transcript of the police interview, here.