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CNET Reporters Intend to Sue HP Over Surveillance 40

theodp writes "The NY Times reports that three CNET journalists whose records, as well as those of their relatives, were scrutinized by pretexting investigators working for HP intend to sue the company for invasion of privacy. HP, who paid $14.5M to settle a lawsuit filed by the CA attorney general in connection with the spying, reportedly offered each reporter $10,000, roughly enough to cover legal bills. The CNET reporters have been banned from covering HP or its see-no-evil CEO, who BTW was rewarded with $20.33M in 2006 despite skipping his reading assignments."
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CNET Reporters Intend to Sue HP Over Surveillance

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  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:38AM (#19019459)
    I'm betting HP settles these suits before more of their shenanigans are exposed in open court ... and before Hurd's actions (or lack thereof) are dragged through the mud again and he's forced to resign as well.
    • by arun_s ( 877518 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:43AM (#19019501) Homepage Journal
      From TFA:

      A California judge dismissed the charges against Ms. Dunn in March and reduced the charges against three other defendants to misdemeanors.
      The company agreed in December to pay $14.5 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the California attorney general in connection with the spying. The company has also apologized to the journalists.
      Yeah, they really got punished the last time round. They actually had to apologise to all those journalists!
  • by Vegeta99 ( 219501 ) <rjlynn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:40AM (#19019469)
    Christ. Is it that hard to say "fraudulent, lying investigators" instead of buying into their bullshit and using that weasel word "pretexting"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They did say "fraudulent, lying investigators". "fraudulent, lying" was just pretexting as "pretexting".
    • It's easy to say, but then knee jerk reactions are by definition not that hard. An investigator lying is not in and of itself illegal, immoral, or fraudulent, therefore there is a need for more words. For instance, lying is not necessarily illegal, but perjury is. Pretexting (pretending to be what you are not) is not necessarily illegal, but identity theft is.

      There are many reasons it is a good thing to be able to differentiate like this. Ask a moral philosopher - the subject of lying is a tricky one. Or pe
      • I don't really think they were too wrong for lying. To tell you the truth, if I was put in charge of a rather large company - where not only my (relatively rich) life was at stake, but the livelihoods of all my employees? Yeah, I'd be shady if I knew someone else among me was being shady.

        But when I can't say to their faces that yeah, I called up these journalists and said I was you to see if you were the leak, that's when it becomes fraudulent. When I have to make up a new word for it so it sounds better, i
        • In other words - just say they were lying as if that were an interesting point to make, ignore the points of detail that might lead to meaningful conclusions, and then make excuses about why there's no point caring about this kind of thing anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:46AM (#19019517)
    I may be anonymous, but I can asure you that had I used my real name it would be of no significance to you. I am by most measures unaccomplished, and uninteresting. I would like to apply for a position as a CEO of your company. Why should you elect me, a man of such small virtue to represent your investments in these uncertain time? Simple, my promise to you is this: I will do nothing, and I will allow no one else to do anything. We will sit quitely while the company works out of sight and out of mind. There will be no travel, no extravagant expenses. I will provide my own computer, and internet service with which to read news, play fantasy football, and surf for japanese school girl porn. All of this I will do quietly. All this I plan to provide to you for the low low price of $500,000 dollars a year, $250,000 in salary, $250,000 in common stock. (Which I have no doubt will increase in value as competing companies will be saddled with boards that insist on doing things). As a final assurance, in the inescapable event that I must make some sort of descision, I will solicite the advice of the cog closest to the metal. And select the course of action, after all delay and procrastination has been exhausted, based on this person's recommendation.

    Thank you for your careful consideration.
  • Cripes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rbochan ( 827946 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:54AM (#19019575) Homepage
    I really wish people would stop with all this "pretexting" bullshit. Call it what it is:

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I thought pretexting was a subcategory of fraud anyway. This old chestnut always sounds to me like "enough of this 'beef' bullshit, call it 'meat!'"
      • Re:Cripes! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by honkycat ( 249849 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @09:18AM (#19019759) Homepage Journal
        It is, but it sounds much more sanitary and pleasant, almost as though it's a legitimate business method. Fraud is plain, simple, and clear about the illegal nature of the activity it describes. Being specific with language is great, but in this case, I think it masks the meaning for people who are not familiar with the term.
        • by asninn ( 1071320 )
          Indeed. If I told someone like my mother that HP got fined for pretexting, she's probably think it somehow relates to sending text messages from a mobile phone or so; she'd forget about it again immediately since the word's meaningless to her. If you say "fraud", on the other hand, it'd immediately be clear what was going on.

          One could argue that I could just explain what "pretexting" means, of course, but such an explanation would likely involve the word "fraud", anyway, so there'd be no use in not calling
      • by maxume ( 22995 )
        I get the sense that people use pretexting in an attempt to pretend that it isn't fraud, something they don't seem to do with beef and meat.
      • I thought pretexting was a subcategory of fraud anyway.

        Yes, it is. There is so much fraud and deceit coming out of corporations and politicians these days that the English speaking public is scrambling for new words to accurately differentiate it so that it isn't one big opaque mass of lies.

        The complaint is that "pretexting" doesn't have negative connotations yet. I suspect because the word is still too new. If people want to change that, they need to pepper the internet/media with clearly derogatory uses

    • When you're a writer, the more often you use words the average american doesn't understand, the smarter it makes you look and the more pretentious your readers can sound at dinner when they impress all their inbred relatives with your big useless words. What's funny is this kind of behaviour is somewhat unique to the english language. You just don't see much of it in romance languages because they don't make words up out of thin air like modern multicultural english is forced to do.

  • $10,000?!?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:54AM (#19019577)
    If they couldn't offer more than that, they shouldn't have offered anything at all. That's actually very insulting. If the reporters were THINKING about suing before, such a pathetic offer certainly sealed the deal.
    • From the article:

      The threat to sue comes after several months of negotiations with the company. In December, Bill Lockyer, then California's attorney general, met with a majority of the nine journalists in an attempt to get settlement talks started; the journalists' lawyers were at the meeting, as were lawyers for some of the news organizations they represented.

      The original plan was to seek an amount equal to about $250,000 for each journalist to be donated to an agreed-upon cause, like a journalism school program, Mr. Lockyer had said at the time.
      In an April meeting with H.P.'s outside law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius of Philadelphia, the seven journalists requested an amount equal to several million dollars each, paid to them directly with their promise that most of the money, though not all, would be donated to charity. Hewlett-Packard's offer was closer to $10,000 per reporter, roughly enough to cover the reporters' legal bills, according to several people involved in the talks.

      I think the reporters are probably looking to cash in while they can. The CA attorney general seemed to have the right idea and most of the reporters bought into it. This group is apparently out for something more, whether it's the money or just to continue shaming HP, it's hard to say. I think both sides are pretty much missing the point: HP can't believe that simply throwing a paltry sum at someone will get them to go away, and the reporters shouldn't get it in their head that it's the

      • I think the reporters would be stupid to sue... that would violate their sources and open them up to all sorts of HP fun!! HP got their numbers from either the wayward board director's phone, or from HP's own company phone records. That much is legally fact. By them admitting there is more, opens them up to admitting they made the other calls... they can't hide behind "sources" and press a CIVIL suit... It's a CIVIL suit.. there's no Constitutional "freedom of press" there. They were knowingly calling
        • by Buran ( 150348 )
          So you're saying that one should just bend over and ask "How far?" when your privacy is illegally violated? A reporter's job is to print the information he or she receives, if he/she feels it relevant to the story being investigated. If someone leaks confidential information, that's their problem, not the reporter's. If you tell me "the sky is blue" and you work for Sky Corp., it's your job, not mine, to know whether or not it's OK for you to tell me that. And if you then illegally pretend to be me to find
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Buran ( 150348 )
        "I think the reporters are probably looking to cash in while they can."

        I disagree. I think they're fairly expecting to be compensated for the embarrassment and offense and dirtiness they must feel for being treated like criminals for just doing their jobs. And I'd certainly expect to be handsomely compensated by a huge corporation that can certainly afford to pay the money when that corporation decided it could just ignore the law and violate my privacy.

        Am I a greedy bitch? No, I don't think so. I think tha
  • by therufus ( 677843 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:56AM (#19019591)
    What about the "Backweb" software HP have been putting on their computers for the past decade? I actually questioned the product manager for HP Australia a few years back about the spyware HP ship with Pavilion and Presario home PC's and his answer was completely unsatisfactory. He said something to the effect of 'Backweb is designed to update customer's HP software remotely, including drivers, applications and other things. To my knowledge, this hasn't been implemented yet.

    So the product manager of HP Australia not only doesn't know if it's been implemented yet, but he also is referring to something laying dormant for 10 years in their systems. Backweb software can potentially phone home and provide any and every detail about a customer. It's TSR, it's in memory ALL THE TIME, and hidden as a service.

    It is so untrustworthy, HP themselves have renamed it in the add/remove programs as "Updates from HP" instead of backweb because customers thought it was spyware.

    This latest development doesn't surprise me at all.
    • This is one reason why I'll never buy HP hardware again: they are the king of crapware. For example, it's virtually impossible to install an HP consumer printer without installing all sorts of custom BS that runs ALL THE TIME. It's a printer, just give me a f@#$%in driver and be done with it.
  • old rome.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Himring ( 646324 ) on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:57AM (#19019601) Homepage Journal
    CEO, who BTW was rewarded with $20.33M

    Ah, for the days of rome, when the oligarchist would also be given 10 more personal legions....

  • Feels strange (Score:4, Interesting)

    by niceone ( 992278 ) * on Monday May 07, 2007 @09:08AM (#19019693) Journal

    Feels strange journalists suing for invasion of privacy - let's see: one bunch of people who invade people's privacy for money suing another bunch of people who invaded that first bunch of people's privacy for money for money.

    (disclaimer: I used to work for hp back in the last century, although they never really asked me to be on the board or anything)

    • Not all journalists are paparazzi.
      • by jcr ( 53032 )
        and very few Paparazzi have committed fraud.

        • And very few fraudsters are journalists[*]! The circle is now complete!

          [*] As a fraction of total fraudsters of all professions.
    • by asninn ( 1071320 )
      Your comment makes about as much sense as the (hypothetical) claim that judges are responsible for crime (since without judges, noone would get convicted of anything).

      Has it never occurred to you that independent, courageous journalists might be a necessity for a functioning democracy? (Not that I'm sure the USA have either, of course...)
    • by deets ( 1072072 )
      If they had nothing to hide, what are they worried about. Sounds like we need to look at the journalists a little closer.
      OK, maybe not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by multisync ( 218450 )

      let's see: one bunch of people who invade people's privacy for money suing another bunch of people who invaded that first bunch of people's privacy for money for money.

      I'm sure if you put a little effort in to it you could recognize the difference between reporting on the activities of the board of directors of a publicly traded company vs. calling a business claiming to be someone you are not for the purpose of extracting information you are not legally entitled to possess from that business.

      Hint: one of t

    • by niceone ( 992278 ) *
      Yes, you're all right. I wasn't making some big statement - that's why I used the word 'feels'.
  • RICO charges? (Score:1, Insightful)

    is this not an occasion where RICO charges could be laid - calling from Canad so I am not necessarily familiar with the US laws and legal system, but some knowledgable /. er should be able to jump in here with a reasonably edumakated guess as to whether or not RICO could or should be brought into play here ... we've all been around the block, and we all nudge nudge wink wink know how things are, but corporations MUST be brought to heel, as well as politicians from time to time ... as well as law enforcemen
    • by fishbowl ( 7759 )
      >is this not an occasion where RICO charges could be laid

      It may be. Of course, you'd have to get the US Attorney General to agree and to act on it, and if you haven't noticed, he's kind of busy right now trying to keep himself out of jail.
  • Realtor deal with pretexting, therefore a licencing system exist.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.