Feeds

HP faces lawsuit by three News.com reporters

Demands for several million dollars per reporter denied

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Three CNET News.com reporters who were spied on in Hewlett-Packard's methodical investigation to reveal the source of media leaks plan to sue the company for invasion of privacy.

The decision by Dawn Kawamoto, Tom Krazit and Stephen Shankland comes after several months of negotiations with HP to discuss settling the sordid affair, in which investigators on HP's dime secretly obtained phone records of at least nine journalists. In some cases these investigators also obtained the records of the reporters' family members and tracked the reporters while on family outings.

Last month during one settlement discussion, which involved four other reporters who were also tracked by HP snoops, journalists requested amounts equal to several million dollars each, according to an article in today's New York Times. (Under the agreement, most but not all of the money would have been donated to charity.) HP, which has already seen its former chairman and two company lawyers resign over the matter, offered a sum closer to $10,000 per reporter.

"The discussions have not been fruitful to date, and we hope to resolve this without litigation," said Terry Gross, an attorney representing Times reporter John Markoff, his employer and three reporters from BusinessWeek. HP has also admitted to spying on two reporters from the Wall Street Journal. Both the Journal and its two reporters have decided to forgo legal action, as has BusinessWeek.

Whether a reporter or news organization should file lawsuits against companies they cover is a delicate issue that puts the issue of privacy rights at odds with the perceived impartiality of the news organizations that have gotten intertwined through no fault of their own. Demands for several million dollars per reporter strike us as opportunistically excessive, depending on how much is skimmed off the top.

On the other hand, it's not hard to understand why the three News.com reporters are putting up such a fight. HP investigators were so intent on learning the identity of boardroom leakers that they tracked Kawamoto while she vacationed with her young daughter at Disneyland. They also targeted phone records for members of Shankland's family, including his father and wife. In an age where snoops can intercept months' worth of phone calls in a single ill-gotten email, even members of the fourth estate have the right to push back, particularly against entities as powerful as HP.

"It's not about greed," an entry on Groklaw persuasively argues. "It's about altering bad behavior by punishing it, and as a deterrent preventing it from happening again." ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.