SWAT team arrives on 3000-L
HP faces state, federal probe on privacy hoax

Speaking of the Houston RUG, and HP's got the problem

Two items surfaced this week that show the wide gulf of the HP experience for users of the 3000. In Houston, volunteers have announced there is one week left to submit a proposal for a talk (PDF file with details) at "The only HP 3000 Conference in North America" in November. Here's to the cheek and moxie of a 3000 community that — five years to the month after HP said the 3000 was kaput — continues to teach homesteading skills to managers. (There are migration talks planned for the GHRUG event, too.)

There is still room at the GHRUG event for speakers, according to conference coordinator Judy Reustle, a volunteer who works for NASA in the Clear Lake area, where the conference will be held. Details on conference registration costs and a speaker list should be emerging shortly, after a GHRUG board meeting next week.

From another state of HP's mind, California — where HP's exit of the 3000 community was executed — we hear news that the private investigators hired by the HP's chairman of the board pretended they were board members to get the directors' phone records. Using that personal information, HP "out-ed" director George Keyworth for leaks after 20 years on the board. HP's chair Patrica Dunn said she was "appalled" at the news.

It's difficult to imagine either of HP's founders, who both served at the chairman post, uttering such a statement. If Dunn was foolish enough to accept an investigator's report without inquiring about tactics used to gather such personal information — this kind of subtrefuge is now called "pretexting" — then she ought to clear her board seat as clean as George Keyworth leaves his.

Update, 5 PM: The story gets worse, at least for anybody who still cares about privacy rights. News.com, one of the companies Keyworth talked to, has reported that "The [investigation] company in turn hired a contractor that used "pretexting" to scrutinize board members, HP said. The technology giant acknowledged on Thursday that the phone records of nine reporters, including two from News.com, were also accessed.

Today's HP board can sometimes let such an issue of integrity and obvious details slip through its grasp. When corporations can hire subcontractors to invade the privacy of investigative reporters —well, that bears no resemblence to the HP I met in 1984. (And oh yeah, I can see the irony in that sentence.) A matter of trust has been breached here. In a bald use of understatement, Dunn calls the incident "embarrassing."

In the Wall Street Journal article on Dunn's alleged discovery, the report said that "California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is investigating whether HP, or firms that it hired, broke California law by pretending to be board members and reporters in seeking phone records." The Journal had a sidebar about "scams" that rely on pretexting. Some might call it impersonation, misrepresentation, or yes, lying.

Being as big as HP is becoming — No. 1 in computer revenue this year, we'd predict — is not very becoming, image-wise. The director who got ousted, much like a good share of the 3000 community, ought to just stay put and see what happens in the face of this mistake.

HP removed him — by eliminating his seat at the next election — because he shared board meeting information with the press. Breaking confidences is one level of mistake. Breaking California law, if that turns out to be the case that Lockyer makes in a criminal charge, is at another level. HP would show more integrity if the vendor could emulate Keyworth's information sharing — between its own board and subcontracted investigation companies.