The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has asked a federal court to make two Florida companies stop telephone pretexting and pay back victims of the practice.
One of the companies, Action Research Group, has been linked in press reports to last year’s Hewlett-Packard pretexting scandal, which led to the resignation of HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn last September. The second company, Eye in the Sky Investigations, has “performed services” for Action Research Group, the complaint said. Eye in the Sky also was called to testify before a congressional investigation into the matter.
In a complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Orlando, the FTC claims that the practice of pretexting violates the U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Telephone pretexting is illegal in some states, but Thursday’s complaint seeks to clarify where the FTC stands on the practice. “Selling the records constitutes an invasion of privacy that could endanger the health and safety of consumers,” the FTC said in a statement released Thursday. It is also a violation of federal law, the statement says.
HP’s top executives became embroiled in a pretexting scandal late last year.
While trying to clamp down on a boardroom leak dating back to 2005, HP hired private investigators who obtained telephone records of company employees and journalists by falsely representing themselves as account holders or telephone company employees.
The scandal at HP also led to the resignation of Ann Baskins, formerly HP’s senior vice president and general counsel, and Kevin Hunsaker, the company’s senior legal counsel.
On Thursday, an HP spokesman said he welcomed the FTC’s move. “HP is opposed to pretexting and has expressly called for the practice to be made illegal,” said HP’s Ryan Donovan via instant message.” We support the FTC’s efforts to permanently halt telephone record pretexting.”
All five FTC commissioners voted to authorize the complaint, the FTC said.
-Robert McMillan, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)
Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.