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Paranoia in Palo Alto

10:30 AM -- You can always count on HP to liven up a slow news week. Yesterday, the firm's somewhat unconventional efforts to find the source of recent leaks to the media were detailed in an SEC filing, painting a juicy picture of backstabbing and corporate intrigue.

Thanks to the brouhaha surrounding the departure of former HP board director Thomas J.Perkins, the Internet is now buzzing with talk of "pretexting," a shadowy technique used by investigators to obtain information by disguising their identity.

A third-party firm employed to find the source of the leaks apparently used "pretexting" in its attempts to obtain phone records that would lead to the culprit, according to the regulatory documents. Surprise, surprise, HP has also been contacted by the Attorney General of the State of California for information regarding its investigation of the leaks.

Earlier this week, an expert warned me that users need to be on the guard for vendors' less acceptable antics, citing the example of vendors who are only to happy to undermine an IT manager by whispering sweet nothings in the ear of his superiors. (See Pundits Ponder Potential Pitfalls.)

But spying on your own employees? The current fracas paints HP, which has had more than its fair share of internal problems recently, in an extremely unflattering light. Would a user really want to buy equipment from a firm that could outdo the Nixon White House in terms of paranoia?

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