According to Der Spiegel, Deutsche Telekom may have broken German data privacy laws when the company tried to ferret out which employees leaked information to the media. The magazine said it obtained an internal fax revealing that the company had reviewed the phone call records of some of its directors and executives. “The German phone company said in a statement on Saturday that call data comprising time, duration and names of participants was abused in 2005 and possibly in 2006,” reports Thompson Financial News. The company used its own millions of call records to investigate the leaks. German prosecutors are reviewing the case.
The case is reminiscent of Hewlett-Packard’s 2006 phone-record spying scandal. In early 2006, then-HP Chair Patricia Dunn hired private investigators that used “pretexting” to acquire the personal phone records of board members and journalists in an effort to locate the source of leaks to the media. (“Pretexting” is a fancy word for “pretending to be someone else in order to get his or her phone records.”) There were various criminal and Congressional investigations. Dunn said she didn’t know that the investigators were pretexting, and the charges against her were eventually dismissed. The good news that came out of the HP scandal was that the general public learned that pretexting is a huge problem and legislators began acting to ban the practice. The bad news is that it took a big scandal to convince people that they should ban the practice of lying to get someone else’s phone records.