Hewlett-Packard Co. Board Chairwoman Patricia Dunn authorized spying on home and private phone records of HP directors to learn who was leaking inside company information to the media, the MSNBC Web site reported Wednesday.
The use of "pretexting" -- pretending to be the person involved -- to get such private records was not illegal at the time the HP investigation started last year, Ryan Donovan, HP director of corporate media relations, said late today.
Donovan also said that HP's investigative officers and contractors will no longer use pretexting in investigations.
MSNBC/Newsweek reported that the use of pretexting violates federal and state laws on fraud and misrepresentation.
The MSNBC story, written by David A. Kaplan of Newsweek magazine, said the spying occurred in January and resulted in a tumultuous board meeting May 18 at the company's Palo Alto headquarters, leading one board member -- Tom Perkins -- to resign in protest.
The story states that it was another, unidentified director, who was found to be leaking company information, not Perkins.
An Associated Press story, also on MSNBC, reported that the HP director accused of leaking information is George Keyworth. The company said it will file a statement with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission that it will refuse to nominate him for re-election to the board and that he will end his service on the board no later than march 2007.
Perkins and HP have since been in a tussle over whether the internal spying should be made public.
The MSNBC/Newsweek story said that a method called "pretexting" was used to gain information to private telephone records. The happens when someone calls a telephone company and identifies himself or herself as the customer in question, thus gaining access to ostensibly private records.