CONGRESS TAKES HP TO THE WOODSHED

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CONGRESS TAKES HP TO THE WOODSHED

 user 2006-10-03 at 11:37:00 am Views: 57
  • #16716

    Congress Takes HP To The Woodshed
    CEO Hurd apologizes for shady behavior, promises to make right
    The
    machine-gun fire of camera shutters foreshadowed verbal combat at last
    week’s congressional hearings on Hewlett-Packard’s investigations into
    boardroom leaks. Heated exchanges between committee members and HP
    principals and partners–including CEO Mark Hurd and former chairwoman
    Patricia Dunn–offered glimpses into the company’s struggles to account
    for, and remedy, its questionable tactics. “I have to ask our
    witnesses,” said Rep. John Dingell, R-Mich., “what were you
    thinking?”The House subcommittee hearings began with former HP general
    counsel Ann Baskins, who had just resigned that morning. Baskins would
    become the first of 10 former HP employees and outside investigators
    formerly under contract with the company to invoke their Fifth
    Amendment right to not testify against themselves.
    One catalyst for
    the hearings was HP’s use of pretexting–obtaining phone records under
    false pretenses. Private investigators working for HP used pretexting
    to get phone records of every board member and several journalists
    covering meetings last year and early this year, in an attempt to
    ferret out leaks. The following exchange between Dunn, who authorized
    the investigations, and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, was typical:Barton:
    “If I came to you and asked for six months of your phone records, would
    you give them to me?”Dunn: “In your position, I would give you my phone
    records.”Barton: “Well, praise the Lord. I wouldn’t give you
    mine.”Dunn: “I hope that doesn’t mean that you have something to
    hide.”Committee members urged Congress to pass legislation to ensure
    that personal phone records are kept private. Although California law
    expressly prohibits pretending to be someone else to secure such
    records, members said that federal regulations are too vague. “Most
    Americans believe that their phone records are theirs, that they’re
    private property that should only be accessed with their permission,”
    Barton said. The committee passed a bill addressing this issue in May,
    but it has yet to see a vote on the House floor.

    Reporter Targeted
    Another
    sore point for committee members was HP’s use of e-mail “tracers,” zip
    file attachments that, when opened, send the IP address of the
    recipient back to the sender. In the course of the boardroom
    investigations, HP sent one such file to a reporter, hoping to follow
    the trail to the source of the leaks. According to HP investigator Fred
    Adler, e-mail tracers were used 12 to 24 times since he joined the
    company in 2003, though never on customers. “It’s equivalent to you
    going through my mailbox,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas.Despite
    the acrimony, HP chief Hurd escaped the hearing needing only a Band-Aid
    or two. He apologized–as he had the previous week in a news
    conference–to those whose privacy had been breached and to employees
    and shareholders. Members accepted his assertion that he’d only
    recently discovered some of the tactics used in the probe. “I wish I
    would have asked more questions, and there are signs I wish I had
    caught,” Hurd said. “I’m responsible for the company, which means I’m
    responsible for fixing it.”Hurd said those affected would receive
    details on what data had been collected on them. HP is auditing its
    investigative techniques, having brought in former U.S. Attorney Bart
    Schwartz to review the company’s practices, and Hurd pointed out that
    several of those involved in the scandal had left the company or no
    longer had contracts. HP has stopped the use of pretexting and is
    analyzing whether e-mail tracers should be used at all, even in cases
    of stolen goods, Hurd said.”There’ll never be a time that we don’t make
    mistakes,” Hurd said in closing, attributing the quote to HP co-founder
    David Packard. He’d earlier said Packard never would have approved of
    pretexting. Now Congress should prove it doesn’t either