DOJ Investigating HP Press Leak Probe

The Justice Department has launched a probe into Hewlett-Packard's methods to uncover the source of press leaks, the company disclosed in a filing Monday. The announcement marks the second government investigation of the company following a similar announcement by the California Attorney General last week.

Besides the legal inquiries, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is also requesting information on HP's actions as well. At issue is the company's use of "pretexting," which dupes companies into divulging personal information.

HP chairman Patricia Dunn authorized the move, which peered through the phone records of all its board members, and nine reporters, including those at CNET, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Some have called for Dunn's resignation.

So far, Dunn has refused to step down, although she said she would resign if the board asked her to. While apologizing to the reporters last Friday, Dunn said the leaks did damage to the company and its reputation. HP has declined to comment on the investigations, other than to say it was cooperating fully with all inquiries.

Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin said that the investigations could have a silver lining for the rest of the country. Bajarin pointed out that while California has stricter laws in place making some of the strategies used punishable by law, there is no federal law helping to protect user's information.

"In fact, even 'pretexting' or the act to pretending to be someone else in order to get that person's phone records is not necessarily illegal in California," he said. A bill is currently awaiting Governor Schwarzenegger's signature that would make the practice illegal, Bajarin added.

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