Employees Suspended for Peeking at Obama Records

Dennis Faas's picture

They say curiosity killed the cat. Well, apparently it also gets Verizon Wireless workers canned.

According to reports, several employees for the popular cellphone provider were suspended under suspicion that they may have peeked at President-elect Barack Obama's call records.

Verizon Wireless CEO and president Lowell McAdam was forthright with the media when he announced that Obama's personal cellphone account had been accessed by employees.

"This week we learned that a number of Verizon Wireless employees have, without authorization, accessed and viewed President-Elect Barack Obama's personal cell phone account," McAdam said in a statement. (Source: dailytech.com)

The phone account in question doesn't appear to have been used in recent weeks. In fact, the voice-only flip phone hasn't been active for months, according to Barack's political team. The phone didn't even have an email function, meaning the amount of information Verizon Wireless peepers could have accessed was severely limited. At best (or worst), they may have been privy to records including dialed or received phone numbers, the length of individual calls, and timestamps.

Verizon Wireless hasn't yet severed all ties with the employees, but appears to be investigating the matter further. At this time, no one seems to have been fired; for all we know, it's even possible a select few may have been granted permission to view the account after all.

According to McAdam, those who used Obama's account after gaining permission will be retained by the company, but those who did not can expect "appropriate disciplinary action... up to and including termination." (Source: computerworld.com)

Although the investigation by Verizon has yet to be fully launched, a number of questions on the subject are already rising to the surface. First, should these suspects, employees and not merely hackers, be prosecuted as if they were hackers? Should the sentence be stiffer or more lenient?

Second, and perhaps more important, should political leaders like Barack Obama be more careful with the technology they use? Prior to election night several weeks ago, would-be vice-president Sarah Palin took heat for using a Yahoo email account that was eventually hacked.

Combined, the two events have many wondering: should prominent public figures take some responsibility for their targeting and protection?

If found guilty, the Verizon Wireless employees could face charges and even a ten year sentence.

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