Saturday, September 23, 2006


If there’s one thing that’s really caught my attention out of the whole mega-storm over HP’s spying on potential employee and board leakers, it’s the term “pretexting.” As neologisms go, this is something of a neo-lowism. Pretexting, which in an earlier time we might have called “lying” or “misleading” or “misrepresenting”, means pretending you’re someone you’re not in order to fraudulently (illegally?) obtain phone, banking, or other personal records. Apparently pretexting is a part of the security industry you may not have been aware of. Hopefully, the HP brouhaha will blow it all out in the open.

It’s hard to imagine that pretexting doesn’t have at least some kind of a history in messy divorce battles, celebrity stalking, and all kinds of unsavory places. But it’s pretty creepy to think that someone could grab your phone and banking records so easily. Innocuous as mine are - the last 10 are client; sister – cell; voicemail; neighbor in the building; ditto (we’re getting some condo work done); sister – work; friend; husband; painting contractor; client – I don’t want anybody scrutinizing them. (Unless I go missing someday; then, please, have at them.)

But it’s easy to see how this practice could wend its way from spying on leakers “for the greater good”, and enemies, for personal gain, to de rigueur pre-employment (or pre-relationship) screening.

Five years ago or so, I took part in a technology panel. Someone in the audience asked all the panel members to talk about their biggest fear on the techno-front. Mine was privacy. Post 9-11, I’d say that techno-terrorism has surpassed privacy as something I worry about. And I’d have to put Internet perverts preying on children as my number two. But privacy is still right up there as a concern.

Hey, I’m writing on two blogs, so I’m obviously not all that obsessed with privacy. But I don’t want the government, big business, or someone who just wants to brush up on me, snooping around my phone records, bank accounts, or trash bags.

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