Anyone with a cell phone, landline, or e-mail address has been feeling Big Brother over his or her shoulder recently. But as the predictions from Orwell’s 1984 come true, it’s not just Americans who are suffering from an invasion of privacy, and it’s not just the NSA. Eunice Huthart has filed a complaint with News Corp, Rupert Murdoch’s media company, citing an “intrusion into private affairs.”
But Huthart is not just any mild-mannered British citizen. She formerly worked as A-lister Angelina Jolie’s stunt double and BBC reports that she considers herself a close friend of the actress that they “often travelled and socialized together.” She is even the godmother of Jolie’s first child. Accordingly, she claims that News Corp hacked her phone specifically to get information about Jolie.
News Corp just cannot catch a break. When Edward Snowden leaked documents about the NSA’s top-secret programs that gather intelligence on the average America, private citizens became conspiracy theorists over night. Following his initial leak, other major corporations such as Facebook and Microsoft took crucial measures to stay in the good graces of their consumers by releasing reports on their user-data requests from all sectors of the U.S. government. But News Corp did it first. Back in 2011, when only the conspiracy theorists or those involved in the NSA’s projects imagined that our government might be listening, News Corp was caught up in a phone-hacking scandal that spread through the entire corporation and eventually led to the close of News of the World.
But it was the FBI and the British government that brought down News of the World. Huthart’s suit against the company is the first of its kind. It’s hard to imagine that when this scandal broke two years ago and Murdoch’s name became synonymous with evil (there’s even a cartoon of it!) no private suits were filed in the U.S., and none specifically related to hacking. Though, the parent organization has paid close to $400 million to settle lawsuits from celebrities like Hugh Grant and Jude Law, athletes and politicians whose private information was used to turn a profit.
Huthart, who did Jolie’s stunts on Mr. and Mrs. Smith, has indicated that the hacked phone calls gave the tabloid The Sun (another organization in Murdoch’s media empire) the exclusive, circulation-boosting story that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were becoming an item on the set of their latest film. Huthart alleges that the hacking caused her to miss phone calls from both Jolie and her daughter.
The fate of the lawsuit is uncertain, however. Murdoch is in the middle of conducting some creative maneuvers with his corporation as he intends to split News Corp into an entertainment company to be called 21st Century Fox and a publishing company who retains the name News Corp. According to USA Today, while the legal costs or civil claims of the hacking scandal will be handled by 21st Century Fox, News Corp will remain responsible for criminal penalties and civil settlements. But Huthart’s lawyer, Siegel seems determined to attack News Corp, even as Murdoch’s new plan begins to muddy the water.