The California attorney general's office has confirmed that the personal phone records of News.com reporter Dawn Kawamoto were subject to unauthorized access by a contractor that was hired by HP in an effort to track down the source of the company's confidential plans that made their way into a Jan 23 article co-written by Kawamoto. According to News.com's Jim Kerstetter:
On Thursday, an investigator with the attorney general's office contacted Kawamoto and said AT&T confirmed that her records had, indeed, been accessed. Kawamoto said she never authorized her home phone records to be shared with anyone, and she noted her home phone number is under her husband's name, not her own.
I was also struck by another part of Kerstetter's story which points out how corporations are feeling more emboldened to engage in such behavior since the federal government does it too:
Given the recent increase in the federal government's attempts to discover the identity of confidential sources, it's not all that shocking that corporations would feel "empowered" to try the same kind of techniques, said Christine Tatum, president of the Society for Professional Journalists and a business writer for the Denver Post....However, "people have to realize that these are not issues that just journalists have to concern themselves with," Tatum said. Pretexting is a very common practice, according to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, and it's troubling to think that companies could employ these techniques against disgruntled customers or debtors, she said.
Why just corporations? Individuals can do this too and it isn't hard to imagine the sort of identity theft this could lead to since the same pretexting techniques used to access phone records could be used to access other confidential information as well.
News.com is a sister organization to ZDNet.com, both of which are CNET Networks properties. News.com is also the primary source of the stories that appear on ZDNet's news site. As a journalist, it's a sickening feeling to hear about this behavior and even more so knowing that it has happened to one of our comrades here at CNET Networks. If there's something I could say to Dawn on behalf of ZDNet other than that our thoughts are with you, I'd say it right now but I'm at a complete loss for words.