Proper Identity Theft?

10 September 2006

Anticipating some word this afternoon from Hewlett-Packard’s telephone conference among board members, I went to the Wall Street Journal’s web site and read this article [subscription may be required]. The title is Divided H-P Board To Discuss
Leak Scandal, Dunn’s Future
and it was written by Joann S. Lublin and Peter Waldman. Here’s a paragraph that caught my eye:

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Friday, Ms. Dunn said she knew little about the tactics used by outside firms hired by H-P, and said she was “appalled” to learn in the past two months that investigators disguised their identities to obtain private telephone records of reporters and H-P directors. She said she had previously thought the directors’ phone records were obtained properly.

What does it mean to “obtain the directors’ phone records properly?” It seems to me that anyone—short of the FBI—who calls my phone company and identifies themselves as me has instantly committed fraud. If a private investigator has been asked to get my phone records, they are faced with asking me for them, asking me for (written) permission to gather them or they must commit a crime to get them. What am I missing here?

Why isn’t’ something called pretexting also called identity theft and a crime? Can a chairman of a company the size of Hewlett-Packard be so naive as to cover her own mistake with something so silly as, “she thought the records were obtained properly?” Apparently so.

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