Pretexting phone records:The California Angle

The California Attorney General asserts he will investigate whether phone records of Hewlett-Packard Board members and journalists were obtained in violation of California Penal Code 530.5 to 530.8, the identity theft law. The puffery will surely help him garner votes and ease the way into his next elective rotation, State Treasurer. The evidence, or lack thereof, to prosecute, will be revealed long afterwards.

California’s attorney general said Thursday that Hewlett Packard Co.’s investigation of its own board members violated two California laws related to identity theft and illegal access to computer records.

Whether the HP related records access rises to a criminal act “depends on the volume of pretexting” , California AG Bill Lockyer said in an interview.

He later cited two criminal statutes, intended to address identity theft and computer hacking, as the basis for the claim that these were criminal acts.
Specifically, Lockyer said, the HP case runs afoul of California Penal Code Section 502, which prohibits “tampering, interference, damage, and unauthorized access to lawfully created computer data and computer systems.”

He also said the case involves Penal Code Section 530.5, which bars use of people’s personal info “for any unlawful purpose, including to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services or medical information in the name of the other person without the consent of that person.”

Because of the corporate governance requirements to keep board matters secret, which a director of HP apparently violated, it would seem that the access to his phone records would not constitute an “unlawful purpose.”

People involved in the HP investigation may have also violated a California Civil Code banning a corporation’s communication of employee social security numbers to the public.

The California Database Protection Act, codified in Civil Code 1798.82 addresses breaches of computer systems by “an unauthorized person.”

A 50 state guide to the criminal statutes pertaining to identity theft is collected by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The California legislature passed SB 202 but it has yet to be signed by the governor. This measure adds a criminal penalty for obtaining telephone subscriber call patterns.

This bill would make it a crime, punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both, to purchase, sell, offer to purchase or sell, or conspire
to purchase or sell, without the written consent of the subscriber,
or procure through fraud or deceit, a telephone calling pattern
record or list.

The California Association of Licensed Investigators has sent a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger urging him to sign it. [email me for a copy: pinewslink(at)gmail(dot)com.

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