September 11, 2006
Filed under Consumer Privacy
Late last week the Washington Post ran a story describing how investigators hired by Hewlett-Packard obtained private phone records of nine journalists without their consent. The investigators used "pretexting" -- a fancy term for pretending to be someone else -- in order to gain access to the records. This controversy is yet another example of why consumers need comprehensive privacy laws to safeguard their personal information. While this may be what you expect to hear from CDT, we seem to have support in this belief from an unexpected place: Viet Dinh, former assistant U.S. attorney general and chief architect of the USA PATRIOT Act. Dinh, who represents a Hewlett-Packard board member, stated in the Post article that the HP controversy "highlights in a very dramatic manner a pervasive problem with respect to the illegal access and trading of personal records." Although we've disagreed with some of Dinh's positions regarding aspects of PATRIOT, we were pleasantly surprised that he too is concerned the widespread privacy abuses made possible by our lax consumer privacy standards. Let's hope that Congress will wake up to the fact that comprehensive consumer privacy laws are necessary before we hear about another HP-like scandal.