What a story: HP spies on its own board members

This one is wild (top story on MSNBC right now, it’s an article from Newsweek).

The basics: a director at HP leaks something to the press. A chairwoman gets pissed. Starts spying on home phone records and other stuff. Alledgedly catches leaker*. Then causes backlash because of her methods. Causes other board member to resign. The leaker was asked to resign (he’s still serving, cause he refused, saying that’s the role of shareholders). And the SEC is involved cause the reason the board member’s resignation wasn’t disclosed promptly or properly.

Me? Damn. I don’t know who to pick on in this one. The leaker isn’t nice and wasn’t smart (lesson: if you’re gonna leak, don’t do it with your own cell phone — didn’t this guy know about Skype and Gmail?)

The methods to find this person are over the line, though. If I found out my employer were using that kind of method I’d be looking over my shoulder and finding another job. I don’t want to work for the KGB. Even worse? The methods used to get the phone records involved lying to the phone company (which is against the law).

How far HP has fallen since the days of Hewlett and Packard. It’s sad.

*=the guy involved claims he wasn’t the leaker, but resigned just to protest the methods being used.

No winners here in my book. What about in yours?

UPDATE: Actually, the winner is Tom Perkins, the VC who quit the board in disgust. I totally agree with TechDirt on that one.

HP, do you have any honor?

Comments

  1. Another woman candidate to speak at Office 2.0?
    Afterall, she’s another female high level office in a recognized tech company

  2. Another woman candidate to speak at Office 2.0?
    Afterall, she’s another female high level office in a recognized tech company

  3. The big hero in this story is Tom Perkins for not accepting unethical behavior and having the courage to resign as an HP board member. That was a gutsy thing to do, and I hope he’s an inspiration to board members everywhere.

  4. The big hero in this story is Tom Perkins for not accepting unethical behavior and having the courage to resign as an HP board member. That was a gutsy thing to do, and I hope he’s an inspiration to board members everywhere.

  5. Wasn’t someone caught (this was by FBI for terrorism-ish stuff) using Skype? I’ll post the link if I find it.

  6. Wasn’t someone caught (this was by FBI for terrorism-ish stuff) using Skype? I’ll post the link if I find it.

  7. It’s an ugly story for sure. But please be careful with the facts Robert; this is something that happened at the board of directors level, not inside the company. Patty Dunn is the chair, but she is not an HP employee, nor were any of the members of the board at the time except Robert Wayman. So it’s overly sensationalistic to say that “HP spies on its own employees”. Also, the admitted “leaker” has not resigned from the HP board, it was Tom Perkins who resigned in protest of Dunn’s actions.

    Having said that, it’s not a flattering thing to have your chair conducting secret surveillance of fellow directors. Guess the PR folks are going to be dancing furiously in the morning.

  8. It’s an ugly story for sure. But please be careful with the facts Robert; this is something that happened at the board of directors level, not inside the company. Patty Dunn is the chair, but she is not an HP employee, nor were any of the members of the board at the time except Robert Wayman. So it’s overly sensationalistic to say that “HP spies on its own employees”. Also, the admitted “leaker” has not resigned from the HP board, it was Tom Perkins who resigned in protest of Dunn’s actions.

    Having said that, it’s not a flattering thing to have your chair conducting secret surveillance of fellow directors. Guess the PR folks are going to be dancing furiously in the morning.

  9. Gene: good point. I’ve corrected my headline and post to make it clear. Although, in my view, a board is even higher than an employee. They have a stake in the company.

    And if they are spying on each other, what signal does that send? Of course they will be willing to spy on employees.

  10. Gene: good point. I’ve corrected my headline and post to make it clear. Although, in my view, a board is even higher than an employee. They have a stake in the company.

    And if they are spying on each other, what signal does that send? Of course they will be willing to spy on employees.

  11. “HP, do you have any honor?”

    The vast majority of 150,000 HP employees around the world have great honor and integrity. Unfortunately this kind of sordid drama at the board and executive levels makes all of us look like idiots when it plays out on the Net and the nightly news. Sigh.

  12. “HP, do you have any honor?”

    The vast majority of 150,000 HP employees around the world have great honor and integrity. Unfortunately this kind of sordid drama at the board and executive levels makes all of us look like idiots when it plays out on the Net and the nightly news. Sigh.

  13. Gene: I’m sure they do. But if your board is behaving this way then your honor and integrity means nothing. At least if you (and by “you” I mean the collective force of HP employees) allow her to stay in as board member, then that’s the case.

    Sometimes it’s time to use that honor and integrity and stand up and take a stand.

  14. Gene: I’m sure they do. But if your board is behaving this way then your honor and integrity means nothing. At least if you (and by “you” I mean the collective force of HP employees) allow her to stay in as board member, then that’s the case.

    Sometimes it’s time to use that honor and integrity and stand up and take a stand.

  15. Damn good computers though, their staff are always top notch as Gene suggests and I find their products always of the highest quality.

    Shame about the board, mind. ;-)

  16. Damn good computers though, their staff are always top notch as Gene suggests and I find their products always of the highest quality.

    Shame about the board, mind. ;-)

  17. Vista RC1 signposts a slip? (and broken keyboards)

    Incoming! It’s IT Blogwatch, in which Microsoft unleashes the first Vista release candidate on an unsuspecting world. Not to mention the amazing, keyboard-breaking Pipecleaner Dance Mk. III…

  18. [...] What a story hp spies on its own employees Check this out: testimony in front of the U.S. House of Representatives by HP’s Scott Taylor, Chief Privacy Officer. What did he tell them? “First and foremost is that privacy is actually a core value at HP. As a company, HP is 100 percent committed to excellence in consumer and employee privacy…”  Now compare that to what Patricia Dunn, chairwoman at HP apparently did. Lying. Breaking the law. And invading people’s privacy. [...]

  19. Hmmm… Not knowing all the facts I’ll comment based on a couple aasumptions.

    First, if you are working with company equipment, dealing with company matters, the the company should have the right to know what you’re doing. After all, we’ve seen time and again where companies have been held responsible for employee actions while on corporate computers.

    Second, if corporate management or directors suspect someone of leaking data they MUST investigate this. Imagine what the SEC, board members, or stock holders would do to you if you did not investigate such matters!

    Obviously breaking the law while investigating cannot be condoned, but the act of investigating/spying to protect internal confidential data would, IMO, be required.

  20. Hmmm… Not knowing all the facts I’ll comment based on a couple aasumptions.

    First, if you are working with company equipment, dealing with company matters, the the company should have the right to know what you’re doing. After all, we’ve seen time and again where companies have been held responsible for employee actions while on corporate computers.

    Second, if corporate management or directors suspect someone of leaking data they MUST investigate this. Imagine what the SEC, board members, or stock holders would do to you if you did not investigate such matters!

    Obviously breaking the law while investigating cannot be condoned, but the act of investigating/spying to protect internal confidential data would, IMO, be required.

  21. The headline of your post is still not accurate. HP di did not spy on a board member. An HP Board member spied on a fellow HP board member.

  22. The headline of your post is still not accurate. HP di did not spy on a board member. An HP Board member spied on a fellow HP board member.

  23. LayZ: that’s pedantic. When a board member does something as part of her official duties you can say that HP actually did it. Until the board member is fired we can assume that HP agrees with the actions.

  24. LayZ: that’s pedantic. When a board member does something as part of her official duties you can say that HP actually did it. Until the board member is fired we can assume that HP agrees with the actions.

  25. Patricia Dunn should be asked to resign. Her conduct was way across any ethical line and was probably illegal. Her comments in the Wall Street Journal today make it clear that in her mind “the end justified the means. Very sad for HP.

    Tom Perkins on the other hand demonstrated the best conduct that the modern boardroom has to offer. Good for him for exposing Dunn’s callous actions.

  26. Patricia Dunn should be asked to resign. Her conduct was way across any ethical line and was probably illegal. Her comments in the Wall Street Journal today make it clear that in her mind “the end justified the means. Very sad for HP.

    Tom Perkins on the other hand demonstrated the best conduct that the modern boardroom has to offer. Good for him for exposing Dunn’s callous actions.

  27. [...] Across separate and in some cases unrelated blog posts (1, 2, 3), I think Podtech’s Robert Scoble unwittingly hit the nail on the head when he wrote: If I found out my employer were using that kind of method I’d be looking over my shoulder and finding another job. I don’t want to work for the KGB…..How did HP handle it? Well, you can go over to Google News, just like I did and see. No video. No candor. No accountability. Nothing other than an official press announcement without a press conference…..By the way, isn’t [Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz's] blog the best executive communication out there? [...]

  28. @Ken Gardner: on the surface, Tom Perkins seems to be taking the high road. However, there is also a bit of CYA involved. Perkins approved the chair’s plan to conduct some form of investigation without the knowledge or consent of the full board. He claims he thought this “behind the scenes” investigation would only examine calendars, travel schedules and such. He was surprised that it involved personal communications. But the fact is that he and the chair BOTH agreed not to just be forthright and ask the board members directly. So, no, Tom Perkins is not exhibiting the best conduct the modern boardroom has to offer!

  29. @Ken Gardner: on the surface, Tom Perkins seems to be taking the high road. However, there is also a bit of CYA involved. Perkins approved the chair’s plan to conduct some form of investigation without the knowledge or consent of the full board. He claims he thought this “behind the scenes” investigation would only examine calendars, travel schedules and such. He was surprised that it involved personal communications. But the fact is that he and the chair BOTH agreed not to just be forthright and ask the board members directly. So, no, Tom Perkins is not exhibiting the best conduct the modern boardroom has to offer!

  30. Noble Scoble,

    Yeppp…this behavior on the part of HP Chairwoman Dunn is wayyyy beyond any benchmark for ethics. If the Board of Directors do not trust each other to talk this out, how can we believe the entire company isn’t riddled with suspicion, backstabbing, and insular activities of a sullied nature. HP was perceived to be a beacon of ethical stability, grounded in reverent history, and strategically focused. This should be a wake-up call to all of us, who give any corporation kudos based on their public personae…and that includes Microsoft. I have met with many Microsoft employees whose actions individually were characterized by egotistical posturing, petty bickering, and outright insulting rudeness. Microsoft may not have the Board issues HP has at the moment, but when it comes to Prima Donnas prancing around their gloriously rendered identities, Microsoft is second to none. What this boils down to is individuals using their work, position, title, and affiliation to replace their basic humanity and concern for the well-being of others. How many do you know at work genuinely care about you? Yes, instead of brokering for power or recognition, how about we give a little attention to developing a heart centered approach to living and working. Oops I’m sorry, I said the word heart. I apologize.

  31. Noble Scoble,

    Yeppp…this behavior on the part of HP Chairwoman Dunn is wayyyy beyond any benchmark for ethics. If the Board of Directors do not trust each other to talk this out, how can we believe the entire company isn’t riddled with suspicion, backstabbing, and insular activities of a sullied nature. HP was perceived to be a beacon of ethical stability, grounded in reverent history, and strategically focused. This should be a wake-up call to all of us, who give any corporation kudos based on their public personae…and that includes Microsoft. I have met with many Microsoft employees whose actions individually were characterized by egotistical posturing, petty bickering, and outright insulting rudeness. Microsoft may not have the Board issues HP has at the moment, but when it comes to Prima Donnas prancing around their gloriously rendered identities, Microsoft is second to none. What this boils down to is individuals using their work, position, title, and affiliation to replace their basic humanity and concern for the well-being of others. How many do you know at work genuinely care about you? Yes, instead of brokering for power or recognition, how about we give a little attention to developing a heart centered approach to living and working. Oops I’m sorry, I said the word heart. I apologize.

  32. Hello.
    I have some news which may interest you.
    IHave been falling to vicitm to keyloggers over and over since I purchased this pc, a hewlitt packard compaq presario.

    Afrer doing several re-installs inthe past weeks and still unable to remove the loggers I decided to run the actaul op sys discs throught he spyware/malware programmme.

    The keylogger age. came up in the actual application files on the system discs.

    I contacted the comapny after three calls I ws tolod I could not be he;lped withoutpaying 38 dollars.
    I told them I wont be paying anything, I know about the great spyware scandal of HP, now it is time people know that it is noit just their staff being spyed upon but their customers too.

    It may have been removed off newer versions, but hey should have replaced these discs when they knew about it, whilst still under wrrantly.

    thank you.
    I am concerned and shocked.

  33. Hello.
    I have some news which may interest you.
    IHave been falling to vicitm to keyloggers over and over since I purchased this pc, a hewlitt packard compaq presario.

    Afrer doing several re-installs inthe past weeks and still unable to remove the loggers I decided to run the actaul op sys discs throught he spyware/malware programmme.

    The keylogger age. came up in the actual application files on the system discs.

    I contacted the comapny after three calls I ws tolod I could not be he;lped withoutpaying 38 dollars.
    I told them I wont be paying anything, I know about the great spyware scandal of HP, now it is time people know that it is noit just their staff being spyed upon but their customers too.

    It may have been removed off newer versions, but hey should have replaced these discs when they knew about it, whilst still under wrrantly.

    thank you.
    I am concerned and shocked.