Old And Busted: MP3. The New Hotness: Cell Phone Records
An interesting question for the HP board room case, one I don’t necessarily have the answer to:
Suppose that Patricia Dunn’s private investigators had kidnapped a member of the HP board and held him hostage until the leaker was successfully identified. I think Dunn would have had a reasonable case to say — look, I hired some private investigators; I didn’t think there’d be congressional hearings about what they had in mind. If I had known they’d do such a thing, I’d never have hired them.
The PI’s she hired, of course, didn’t kidnap anyone. They just picked up cell phone records, something that you don’t even need special connections to accomplish. (Kudos to the Merc News for actually reporting on this!) Did they commit a crime? Absolutely. But did these guys think they were doing anything above and beyond their normal activities? Check out this PI from the original news report in January 2006, back in the Chicago Sun Times:
Ernie Rizzo, a Chicago private investigator, said he uses a similar cell phone record service to conduct research for his clients. On Friday, for instance, Rizzo said he ordered the cell phone records of a suburban police chief whose wife suspects he is cheating on her.
“I would say the most powerful investigative tool right now is cell records,” Rizzo said. “I use it a couple times a week. A few hundred bucks a week is well worth the money.”
If not even the guys who do this stuff every day realize the criminal implications of surreptitiously acquiring cell phone records, would they have even told Dunn they were doing so? If so, would she have had any reason to have considered it unusual? Or might this have seemed legitimate due diligence, circa 2006? What a depressing commentary on the collapse of privacy in a networked society…and what a beautiful proof of the universality of McNealy’s Law.