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Given the recent spate of laptop losses affecting major companies, many of you have wondered why the likes of Fidelity and Ernst & Young would let crucial customer information leave their own servers and desktops in the first place. Well, in Fidelity's case, we've learned that the company had a really important demo to perform - one that apparently required it to load 200,000 HP workers' personal information on a laptop.

The Register has obtained a copy of the FAQ that HP handed out to employees to explain the data inFidelity. In it, we discover Fidelity's rather flimsy excuse for outfitting a laptop full of HP data. This laptop went missing earlier this month, exposing current and former HP workers.

"Fidelity indicates that the data was imported onto a laptop in order to support discussions for a meeting at HP, during which Fidelity demonstrated a new software product they believed would assist HP in addressing some administrative issues related to the HP retirement plans," HP told its staff yesterday. "It was not necessary for the discussions or the demonstration that the data be transmitted in this way, and HP was not informed ahead of time that this would occur. HP views this as a very serious problem."

Er, so how did a Fidelity employee manage to lose track of this laptop then?

"This seems to be an isolated incident, and simply the result of human error," HP said.

Human error indeed.

Have no fear though, HP has pulled out the belt on Fidelity.

"HP has escalated the issue to the highest levels of senior management at Fidelity. We are working aggressively to ensure that our employees are supported in the best ways possible. As we learn more surrounding the circumstances, we will revisit the remedies as needed."

Several of you have sent in letters complaining that you cannot access the special Fidelity website set up to handle this debacle. Others have complained that Fidelity hasn't been terribly helpful when you do make contact. So, it would seem, proactive is a relative term.

Fidelity should still receive some credit for seeming more on the ball than Ernst & Young, which waited weeks to notify customers about its run of laptop losses. Ernst & Young has lost information on workers from Sun Microsystems, Cisco, IBM and BP. You won't have heard much about this though, as other security reporters appear too busy to pick up the phone and call Ernst & Young about the incidents.

"I am finding the articles regarding Ernst & Young laptop thefts very interesting," writes reader Rich. "Curiously though, why are none of these reports appearing on websites such as Time, Newsweek, Business Week, CIO, Computerworld, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today etc."

"I searched those and found one article regarding the HP/Fidelity theft and that was about it. I ask because I was asked the very same question when discussing the subject with a colleague."

Very curious indeed. ®

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