Thursday, September 07, 2006


Corporate spies

There's been concern about the government spying on individuals. That concern is warranted. But there is an even larger, and even less accountable power in this country than the Bush Administration: corporations. And they increasingly invade privacy in ways that would give pause even to the government. Jim Kerstetter, writing in CNet News, says that A CNET reporter's personal telephone records were accessed by a contractor hired by Hewlett-Packard to uncover the source of boardroom leaks to the media, according to the California attorney general's office. The investigation conducted by a company hired by HP used a controversial technique called "pretexting" to obtain the personal phone records of reporter Dawn Kawamoto, state prosecutors said. Pretexting is a sometimes-illegal method of obtaining personal records through misrepresentation of someone's identity. ... In a filing Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, HP acknowledged that the pretexting technique was used to obtain the personal records of board member Tom Perkins. The courts will decide how much of this is legal. But this case is the tip of the iceberg. Increasingly corporations are obtaining information about ordinary people through means of often questionable legality. They create massive and poorly-verified databases, on which basis they make decisions about, say, access to credit or to the ballot box. These have arguably as much or more impact on everyday life than the government's actions. Under the guidance of the bad shepherds of the right, the American public is developing a slave mentality, in which it accepts intrusions into privacy, the power of corporations to determine the limits of individual freedom, and other diminutions of individual liberty that would leave the Founder wondering, sadly, why they had even bothered. It's time for any remaining free people to start saying "No more."
This has popped up on the radar over at, which is a great site for legal coverage of technology issues. It was originally started to track the SCO vs. IBM case, but has since expanded to cover other matters, like the anti-trust suits against Microsoft. Worth checking out.

And, no, I have nothing to do with the site, save for being a frequent visitor.
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