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Reporter's Story — How HP Kept Tabs On Me 194

Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "An outside lawyer working for H-P, John Schultz, yesterday told Wall Street Journal reporter Pui-Wing Tam how H-P's investigators collected information on her for a year, scoping out her trash and compiling a dossier on her phone calls. From Tam's article about her time spent, unwittingly, under surveillance: 'H-P's agents had my photo and reviewed videotaped footage of me, said Mr. Schultz, of the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. They conducted "surveillance" by looking for me at certain events to see if I would show up to meet an H-P director. (I didn't.) They also carried out "pre-trash inspections" at my suburban home early this year, Mr. Schultz said. ... But what was surprising were the questions Mr. Schultz left unanswered: How did H-P's agents get my phone numbers in the first place? When did they review videotaped footage of me? Did their gumshoes park their cars outside my house at night? And what the heck is pre-trash inspection?'"
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Reporter's Story — How HP Kept Tabs On Me

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  • Stalking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cdn-programmer ( 468978 ) <`ten.cigolarret' `ta' `rret'> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @05:41PM (#16509585)
    Does this qualify as stalking? Perhaps corporate stalking?
    • Re:Stalking (Score:5, Funny)

      by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare@gmail. c o m> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @05:46PM (#16509657) Homepage Journal
      only if the hp thugs leave things like burnt teddie bears or roses dripping blood on her doorstep, hide in the bushes and masturbate, call her and hang up all the time, steal her unwashed underwear and wear them on their faces, and write her long, rambling emotional emails that don't make much sense
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by lobiusmoop ( 305328 )
      This whole scandal seems to go against the original HP Way [hpalumni.org] ethos of having "trust and respect for individuals" that used to be a guiding principle in the company (albeit a long time ago now). It's not the same HP it used to be.
    • Re:Stalking (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:18PM (#16512247)
      why should a high profile press reporter have any more "privacy" than Britney Spears? After all, look how much stuff the tabloids get to publish legally! Don't think it's not legal... there just isn't any money in tracking random reporters like they do hollywood stars.. unless a big corp is bankrolling it. Think of the "hidden cameras" and "riveting exposes" you see on the boob tube and supermarket news racks.. YES, they can do that to you too! Don't like people randomly reading your emails to teenage boys? Don't like that bad day you had and hopped in the car wihtout the carseat? How about that skinny dip you didn't think anybody knew about? not so funny any more is it.. to bad it's part of the game every body pays to watch.
      • Or put it another way: Why should Britney Spears have less privacy than a press reporter? Perhaps what the tabloids do shouldn't be legal? Discuss.
    • by eonlabs ( 921625 )
      So when you have a single stalker, you get the one guy breathing into the phone.
      What happens when you have a corporate stalker?
  • by strspn ( 1014073 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @05:42PM (#16509603)
    I read the article in the Journal this morning. What really pissed me off was the way that all the really uncomfortable details from powerpoint slides that HP had already turned over to Congress were excluded from the materials provided to Ms. Tam in person. For example, the fact that they not only pulled her phone records, but those of everyone she had been calling and taking calls from on her cellphone. This was while she was planning a sister's wedding.
  • sshhhhh (Score:4, Funny)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @05:43PM (#16509609) Homepage
    An outside lawyer working for H-P, John Schultz, yesterday told Wall Street Journal reporter Pui-Wing Tam how H-P's investigators collected information on her for a year, scoping out her trash and compiling a dossier on her phone calls.

    shhhhh! you're giving AT&T and the NSA ideas!
    • AFAIK, trash isn't yours once it is on the curb.
      At least as far as the Government is concerned.
      (IE they don't need a warrant)

      I really don't know what law you'd be charged under for taking/stealing someone's garbage.

      • by Anonymous Cowpat ( 788193 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @07:09PM (#16510689) Journal
        clearly, you need to start leaving an EULA on your trash: "By reading this, you agree to an exclusive binding legal contract with [name] as to the nature of all dealing with this trash. This trash is not discarded property. This trash remains the property of [name] until such time as those individuals designated for its collection for immediate disposal remove it. At such time, ownership of this trash will transfer to the designated collecters (or their employing agency) for the explicit purpose of immediate disposal. Those found tampering with this trash will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This contract shall be construed as being formed under the law of the State of California unless otherwise prohibited by local law of competent juristiction."
        That should stop the snoopers!
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Dunbal ( 464142 )
          This trash remains the property of [name] until such time as those individuals designated for its collection for immediate disposal remove it.

          No no no!!! IANAL -but-:

          [name] grants the designated trash collection company license to remove the trash from the residence and dispose of it in the accustomed landfill, however this trash remains the property of [name] until such time as it is degraded and unrecognizable as the original form in whole or in part...
        • It's funny you should write that.
          Overhere it's law that once you put your trash out on the sidewalk to be picked up, it becomes property of the city. If someone would take your trash, or search through it for things of interest it'd be considered stealing from the city.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by camperdave ( 969942 )
        I thought it was considered private property until the sanitation workers dumped it into the truck. I'm sure I saw that on CSI or some similar TV show somewhere. Mind you, I am fairly sure that legal situations appearing on television shows do not constitute prior rulings, and presumably these rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
      • AFAIK, trash isn't yours once it is on the curb.

        Not sure if that's the case in the UK. I once had a part-time job in a supermarket when I was a teenager, where one of the full-timers was sacked for trying to take a damaged bottle of beer home. It was a large two-litre plastic bottle that had been placed next to a rubbish skip (I think they're called "dumpsters" in the US), and the guy was apprehended as he wandered past the front of the store. The manager knew the bottle was destined for landfill, but s

  • by 10100111001 ( 931992 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @05:44PM (#16509627)
    If the power of corporations continues to grow unchecked, we could come upon a time when some corporations monitor their employees 24 hours a day, in there homes, at play, wherever, and to do anything outside of the company rules would mean termination. It would be in the company's best interest to do so.

    Sort of like how they can do drug testing now.
    • by nebaz ( 453974 )
      Would it really be in their best interest though? It costs time and money to monitor people, resources most likely spent elsewhere.
    • If the power of corporations continues to grow unchecked, we could come upon a time when some corporations monitor their employees 24 hours a day, in there homes, at play, wherever, and to do anything outside of the company rules would mean termination. It would be in the company's best interest to do so.

      If my power continues to grow unchecked, I could be KING OF THE ENTIRE WORLD.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yeah, but then who watches the watchers?
      • who watches them? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Gonoff ( 88518 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @06:35PM (#16510281)

        We do.

        Any surveillance operation needs computer experts. These "people" just need to find IT workers with low enough principles. Unfortunately money seems to make principles take a back seat.

        Maybe we need an "Association of Principled Technologists". If we made it important enough, maybe it might encourage people away from the less wholesome facets of our trade.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Just grow a pair of testicles and when you see the same stranger staring at you through a pair of binoculars for the fifth time shoot the fucker.
      • by bcat24 ( 914105 )
        Even more importantly, who watches the watcher-watchers?
    • As opposed to governments doing the exact same thing, right? Cause it's okay when they do it.
    • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @07:00PM (#16510593)

      It's not the power of the business that is "unchecked". After all, business assets can easily be seized or destroyed. Disrupting routine business can quickly become very expensive for a business especially one ruled by the market like many publically traded corporations. The need for a lot of infrastructure both inside and outside the business generally makes businesses vulnerable.

      Instead what is happening is that the cost of some means of employee testing and monitor are becoming cheap for the benefits they provide. Drug testing is pretty clear profit for most businesses. You don't want someone with a big drug habit in a position of trust over money or something that they can sell for money.

      Employee monitoring outside of the workplace, especially secret monitoring is expensive and frankly not productive. After all, what sort of employee will consent to that kind of thing? How would that affect morale? I can see legitimate if paranoid special cases where monitoring might be worthwhile, but in those situations they should be writing a pretty big check anyway.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oohshiny ( 998054 )
        You don't want someone with a big drug habit in a position of trust over money or something that they can sell for money.

        I wouldn't give a damn if they did their job well and were paid well enough to afford their drug habit. Furthermore, we could lower the "paid well enough to afford their habit" threshold by legalizing drugs.

        Employee monitoring outside of the workplace, especially secret monitoring is expensive and frankly not productive. After all, what sort of employee will consent to that kind of thing
      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:05AM (#16513455) Journal

        Employee monitoring outside of the workplace, especially secret monitoring is expensive and frankly not productive. After all, what sort of employee will consent to that kind of thing? How would that affect morale? I can see legitimate if paranoid special cases where monitoring might be worthwhile, but in those situations they should be writing a pretty big check anyway.

        1. Some forms of monitoring are actually dirt cheap.

        To start with the obvious, spyware is pretty ubiquitous at some companies, and that includes company laptops. So then people take them home and use them too for IM, slashdot, VOIP, updating their "anonymous" blog, and whatnot, and you can see where that is going.

        E.g., someone posted a while ago, in a thread about tele-commuting, about how he knew an employee wasn't really working at home because he looked on XBox live all the time and after a couple of weeks the employee had 5 achievements in Oblivion. (Never mind that Oblivion is a game which can be finished in a weekend if you just follow the main story, or in a week without telecommuting even if you do every single side-quest. And 5 achievements aren't really that much.) That's a form of surveillance.

        Google can also be used as a cheap form of surveillance, because most people don't really try to be anonymous. Or can be identified by details they provide.

        Cell phones can also be tracked, as proven by a recent article, but I didn't bookmark it. Basically a journalist used such a tracking service on his girlfriend's phone. It asked for confirmation once at the start, and from there it was basically in stealth mode. In that case it was with her knowledge, for research purposes, but you can see how that can happen without knowledge too, if you have access to a "logged-in" phone for a couple of minutes. Company cell phones are a prime example: they can be subscribed to tracking before you even get the damn thing.

        2. The line of reasoning that something won't happen because it's not making any money (or preventing losses) for the company is flawed too, and assuming that humans on the whole only do perfectly rational stuff supported by solid logic and numbers. That's false. Humans do a lot more for emotional reasons than for anything even vaguely resembling cold logic supported by facts.

        Some PHBs (A) have nothing better to do with their time (even doing lunch and painting powerpoint foils only takes so much time), and (B) are complete control freaks. They don't do it because it actually helps the company in any form or shape, but just to feel in control of something they actually don't really know how to manage.

        Even HP's case, if you look at it, is really no more than some control-freak exercise. If you look at the "leaks" they were investigating, the grand acts of treason to the press so to speak, the mind boggles. One executive had unauthorizedly told the press that he's tired after a long board meeting. Or that HP hopes to sell more of their Opteron servers in the future. (Well, of course. Is their any company who actually hopes to sell less and lose market share?) It's benign, uninformative and bloody useless small talk, not any actual company secrets.

        But someone was chuffed that a director dared talk to the press at all, even such uninformative small-talk, without their royal seal of approval. I.e., a control freak. That's really how that espionage and stalking affair got started.

        3. Even when logic and facts are involved, a lot more often than not, the goals are PR, looking good, etc, not "is it making the company money." You can see it from company policies and politics to PHB's more concerned with maintaining an illusion to their superiors than with managing what they're supposed to manage. Whole man-years get spent on just seeming to do something about a problem, instead of just fixing it.

        Or to take your example with drug testing, the thing is: people aren't testing only investors and board members. You know, people who could actua

      • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
        After all, business assets can easily be seized or destroyed.



        Next step: Nuclear armament for corporations (hey, corporations are business, and business is good, right) ? That should stop anyone from messing with their assets.

    • by ZWithaPGGB ( 608529 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @07:01PM (#16510601)
      This, along with all the other reasons trotted out daily in Dilbert, is why the large corporations can't invent anything. The best and brightest won't work for them. The "Search for Talent" was the cover sotry on last week's Economist. Too bad the corporate drones don't get that their risk averseness, in all things, is why they can't hire and retain the best and the brightest. Wait, I'm an entrepreneur, that means I get the smart ones that HP doesn't! Yippeeee!!!!

      Foosball, blimps, bring your dog to work, and LAN parties for the gamers aren't frivolity, they help productivity, in my experience. Costs a lot less than hiring private eyes to just keep your employees HAPPY!!!

      • by rm999 ( 775449 )
        "This, along with all the other reasons trotted out daily in Dilbert, is why the large corporations can't invent anything. The best and brightest won't work for them."

        The only reason why the best and brightest wouldn't work for them is their R&D spending. I think HP actually spends quite a bit. For further counter-examples see google, Intel & AMD, Amazon and XEROX/IBM back in the day.

        I think more importantly, large corporations have a larger chance of incompetence and arrogance being at the top. As
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Sort of like how they can do drug testing now.

      It has a place sometimes. I work in one of the few companies in Australia that carries out drug testing on some of it's employees. I don't get tested because I don't handle explosives.

      • I worked for AMS for a bit - they tested me and all I worked on was accounting software.
      • by aXis100 ( 690904 )
        Many Australian mine sites that I work on require drug testing before site entry as part of their "Fitness for Work" policies. It's usually only a once-off or random thing.

    • relize it's not about company power.. most of what they did anybody could do... if they didn't get caught too. Remember, HP was not about a "legal" case, they wanted the disloyal leakers found... it cost 1 CEO her job because the media circus surrounding her pushed the board to make poor decisions and not follow the company's own standards. Several directors worked in concert, without board permission, to defame her as "secret sources" to the press to effect their private interests above those they agreed
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "If the power of corporations continues to grow unchecked, we could come upon a time when some corporations monitor their employees 24 hours a day, in there homes, at play, wherever, and to do anything outside of the company rules would mean termination. It would be in the company's best interest to do so."
      ...until we decide enough is enough and borrow Madame Guillotine from the French.
  • by necro2607 ( 771790 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @05:51PM (#16509741)
    heh. "The scandal, which became public last month, has spurred the departures of three executives and three H-P directors"

    Departures..? What about criminal charges??!

    "According to the California attorney general, H-P's investigators also used the last four digits of my Social Security number to impersonate me in order to obtain my phone records, a technique known as "pretexting.""

    OK, if I'm not mistaken it's completely illegal to impersonate someone, and also, are phone records not considered "private" information? In such a case there's not only impersonation but right-to-privacy laws that have been treaded upon...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes it is illegal, but they are rich, they can get away with it. Remember OJ.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Brobock ( 226116 )
      OK, if I'm not mistaken it's completely illegal to impersonate someone, and also, are phone records not considered "private" information?

      What you speak of is "social engineering" and yes it is illegal, however let us not forget that they didn't social engineer, they were "pretexting." I never even heard that word used so many times until this scandal. I am so sick of how changing words can be the difference between criminal and non-criminal. This is flat out lying. But you won't hear any media use that
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
      I don't know where you people get your idea of laws from, but it isn't illegal for a private citizen to violate your privacy. If I read your diary without your permission you can't have me arrested. Jesus.
      • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @07:19PM (#16510785)
        If I read your diary without your permission you can't have me arrested. Jesus.

        Back a second time eh? If I catch you reading it I'll have you crucified! Pilate.

        • by patio11 ( 857072 )
          >> Back a second time eh? If I catch you reading it I'll have you crucified! Pilate.

          I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down. Jesus, via Chumbawamba.

          (P.S. Jokes aside, Pilate is generally depicted as having been rather reluctant to crucify Jesus, although he ends up succumbing to pressure from the crowd.)
      • What about filming you in the can or reading your medical records?
        • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
          No and no. If the government does it, it's illegal, if citizens to do it to each other it's just bad manners.
          • No, it's also illegal to film you in the can - there's a presumption of privacy there. Of course, those laws vary by location.
            • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
              presumption of privacy restricts what governments can do. It doesn't restrict what I can do. Laws don't work the way you're told on tv they do ok?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by dbcad7 ( 771464 )
          I think what he is saying is that privacy is not a law. There are laws to protect you from some invasions of things like medical records. But the laws broken to obtain such information is not "invasion of privacy" but things like treaspassing, theft, and fraud...That's my take on it anyway.
      • Unless that diary is on a secure computer system! You don't think that Ma Bell keeps the logs of everyones phone records in a handwritten ledger do you?
    • OK, if I'm not mistaken it's completely illegal to impersonate someone, and also, are phone records not considered "private" information?

      Hence the "According to the California attorney general...".
    • What's more worrying is that it's possible to impersonate somebody using only the last 4 digits of an SSN, a name and an address.

      My phone banking uses a nice system asking for the nth and nth number of my security code (Which is only known to me), can't companies do something similar? I know my phone company refuses to deal with anything but fault reports unless you dial in from the line you're querying about, is that so difficult either?
  • I thought that trash at the curb was considered as being out in public view. Someone can drive by and throw your trash into their truck for further inspection. After all, you were going to throw it away and it was going to end up in a landfill or incinerator.

    Ah, here you go [com.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
      Actually someone can come along and inspect your trash, but in some places it becomes the property of the garbage company when you put it out on the curb and messing with it is messing with the trash company's property. Of course, in practice, they are never ever going to tell the cops they can't have your trash. To make a long story short, if you're doing something illegal, disposing of the evidence in your own trash can is fucking stupid, and any time you throw away any papers you should automatically ass
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jcr ( 53032 )
        I find that shredded documents make excellent tinder for the fireplace..

        -jcr
        • by Oswald ( 235719 )
          Bingo! Of course, we're both going to Hell for using our fireplaces. I don't think it's eco-friendly.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cr0sh ( 43134 )
          I want to note that if you do this, make sure to use little of the shred material at one shot, or have a screened chimney cap in place on your chimney. The reason for this is because you can get a very hot and quick roaring fire going with shredded paper, and if your draft is good, a lot of smoke, sparks and burning paper might leave your chimney still burning (or smoldering, at minimum). Still, shredded paper is a great firestarter.

          Also, if you have the time and don't mind a little mess, take the shreds, p

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mooncaine ( 778422 )
        I read once [maybe here?] that there's at least one other significant population of spies who can "afford" to reassemble confetti into documents: meth addicts hoping to score info they can use to make money, like your credit card statements. Apparently some meth users were caught doing exactly this. The story goes that they have plenty of time [awake for hours on end], the energy, the willingess to commit the crime, and a tendency toward compulsive, repetitive acts [when under the influence]. Because they s
      • by tbuskey ( 135499 )

        Only large governmental agencies can afford to reassemble confetti into documents.

        No longer true.
        http://www.churchstreet-technology.com/ [churchstre...nology.com]

        In 2003, ChurchStreet charged $2,000 for a cubic foot of strip-shreds, and $8,000-$10,000 of cross-shreds of standard size of 1/32 × 7/16 inch (0.8 × 11.1 mm) strips.

    • There is law on this, and it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

      In the British series Spy [bbc.co.uk] one episode dealt with what they half-jokingly called Garbology, with the recruits working through simulated bags of household garbage to build up profiles of who lived in the house. It was emphasized that MI5 [mi5.gov.uk] could do this for real, but as ordinary civilians, they couldn't, so they had to fake it.

      ...laura

    • I thought that trash at the curb was considered as being out in public view. Someone can drive by and throw your trash into their truck for further inspection. After all, you were going to throw it away and it was going to end up in a landfill or incinerator.

      It really depends on where you live -- that kind of law is often determined and enforced by municipal, county, or state authorities. For example, in my municipality it's illegal to take things from peoples' trash because as soon as it is put out on the
  • Hacking, anyone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @06:02PM (#16509863) Journal
    Bryan Wagner of Littleton, Colo., allegedly used the last four digits of my Social Security number and my home phone number to set up an AT&T online account for my local phone service.
    How is this different from the "social engineering" that Kevin Mitnick did? He phoned people and used pretexting to gain access to computer systems. Interesting that when someone rich and powerful does it, it is called "pretexting", yet, when an ordinary person does it, it is called "hacking".
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
      Yeah? It's called intent.
    • I'm not convinced that the 'pretexting' is really the whole story.

      I'm suspicious that it is a cover for what is really happening
      in phone record land.

      Scenario:

      Telcos sells call records to company X.

      Company X sells call records to whomever including the NSA.

    • Re:Hacking, anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by asuffield ( 111848 ) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:43AM (#16513835)
      How is this different from the "social engineering" that Kevin Mitnick did?


      It isn't - but people do this all the time. Mitnick's only crime was being poor in a courtroom - he couldn't afford the legal staff needed to disprove the government's largely specious claims of damages (they arbitrarily slapped an figure of some tens of millions on a handful of standard instrusion cleanups - we all know that intrusion cleanup is a pain, but even for a large company or government organisation it's measured in the thousands, not millions).

      The government lost most of the rest of their case against him. His sentencing was primarily based on the damages claim. Mitnick may not have been the best guy around, but he didn't really deserve anything more than a community service sentence.
  • Always shred your documents heading for the trash. Not only will this protect you from corporate snoops, but also identity thieves and nosy neighbors!
    • Then remember to crosscut (and possibly burn) as well.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
      Always shred your documents heading for the trash.

            "Of course our new HP iShredder conveniently scans those documents and sends them in to corporate HQ before shredding, just in case something vital gets lost!"
  • These are the same tacktics that Bush is pushing for. HP can argue that they were using government sanctioned methods to fight corporate espionage and financial terrorism, because that is exactly what Bush wants to be able to do to every citizen in the United States. Maybe they jumped the gun a litte, but this is exactly what Bush's anti-terrorism policies allow (Patriot Act, etc). Don't believe me? Read the bills sent to congress. Thoroughly. Of course, I only like HP for their printers. Never did l
  • Examples Of Pretrash (Score:3, Informative)

    by cmholm ( 69081 ) <cmholm@mBLUEauiholm.org minus berry> on Thursday October 19, 2006 @06:57PM (#16510557) Homepage Journal
    "Pretrash inspections" of her home could include (in increasing order of invasion): 1) digging through the trash can before hauling it out to the curb, 2) rifling the mailbox, and 3) breaking and entering. Short of crawling into her bed, I think that about covers it.
    • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @08:38PM (#16511475)
      I believe that a "pre-trash" inspection is when someone goes through all your possessions looking for evidence of {something} before you've decided that said possessions are actually trash. In other words, they sneak into your your house, go through your all your stuff, and if that doesn't work then they look through your dumpster.
    • The blurb gets it wrong, "pre-trash" isn't about "before stuff goes into the trash".
      Quote from TFA: "pre-trash inspection survey is in progress for the Tam residence,", IMO this should be parsed as "pre-(trash inspection) survey".
      This probably means walking down the street past the house, to see if they can get at the trash without Tam noticing.

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