Friday, September 29, 2006

Blame the phone company

I am amazed at how much the press is blaming HP for using phone company pretexting to trace boardroom leaks. I guess that the press is so excited because reporters had their privacy violated. But it was the reporters' own phone companies that betrayed them by releasing their personal phone records. I think that about 95% of the blame should goto the phone companies, as they could very easily institute policies that prevent this sort of thing. Apparently the phone company profits from spying on people and using the info to allow others to spy, and if we need new laws, they should first restrict the phone company spying.

The Si Valley paper says:
The testimony left Congress members trying to figure out who was to blame for the company's troubled boardroom leak investigation. Adding to their difficulty, 10 witnesses at the hearing invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. A former HP security manager and seven private investigators declined to testify, as did Kevin Hunsaker, a former top HP lawyer who headed up the team of leak investigators.

At the start of the hearing, HP General Counsel Ann Baskins announced her resignation from the company and then invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege against testifying.

Subcommittee members expressed disbelief that nobody at HP's top level stepped forward to say the practice, legal or not, was unethical and should have been stopped.
AP reports:
Cingular Wireless LLC, the nation's largest cell phone provider, on Friday sued a private eye caught up in the scandal over the Hewlett-Packard Co. leak investigation, seeking to make him pay for allegedly obtaining customer call records under false pretenses.
Cingular is owned by what used to be called the Bell System. Verizon has filed a similar lawsuit.6y

Congress can start by blaming itself. It passed privacy laws that suited big businesses but were ineffective for consumers. There are a lot of simple things that the phone companies could do. They could give the customer the option of not keeping old records. They could only send records to the billing address. They could summarize all account activity on the next bill, so the customer would at least know that his records were accessed. They could require confirmation from the phone number associated to the account. There are just a few ideas that don't cost any money.

If I were that private detective sued by the phone company, I would subpoena the executives who adopted the policies that encourage pretexters. My hunch is that the phone company has business reasons for tolerating pretexters.

Update: Here is someone blaming the phone companies.

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