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HP CEO's Browsing History Used Against Him 230

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the privacy-mode-ftw dept.
theodp writes "Anything you browse can and will be used against you. An investigation of ousted HP CEO Mark Hurd's surfing history reportedly convinced the HP Board that Hurd had had a personal relationship with sexual harassment accuser Jodie Fisher, even if not sexual. Just the latest example of how HP 'work[s] together to create a culture of inclusion built on trust, respect and dignity for all.' The WSJ reported a person close to the investigation said Hurd had looked at clips from racy films featuring Ms. Fisher, a former actress, while someone 'familiar with Mr. Hurd's thinking' said he merely did a Google search of 10 minutes or so. One wonders how many more 'personal relationships' with Ms. Fisher the browser histories of HP's 304,000 worldwide employees might reveal. BTW, nice to see that Hurd has made it to HP's ex-CEO-Hall-of-Fame page."
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HP CEO's Browsing History Used Against Him

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  • by happy_place (632005) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:08AM (#33274730) Homepage
    HP died with Lew Platt. Carly Fiorina was a trainwreck. The HP Way is gone and done, and has been since the first layoffs just prior to 9/11.
  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:14AM (#33274788) Journal

    sexual harassment is pretty serious. one would think we should be more sympathetic to jodie fisher, not hurd. oh right, his browsing history was used against him. therefore, we should be sympathetic to him (rolls eyes)

    Pardon me if I'm sympathetic to neither since I know neither party nor do I know the exact circumstances. A woman making a sexual harassment claim should neither immediately receive sympathy nor suspicion. Likewise claims of spying or overstepping the bounds of what might be considered reasonable surveillance is not something anyone should automatically have a knee-jerk reaction to. The bias you are seeing is because you are on a geek message board not a feminist message board.

  • Re:HA HA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:52AM (#33275164)

    Your workplace typically has far, far more bandwidth than your home, and a decent proxy server, and often has better computer screens and video cards than people who pay for home hardware can afford. That can provide a much better porn experience. And many porn sites do not easily support downloading the content, prefering to stream it live: technically sophisticated users can usually save it, but that's often considerable extra work.

    I've actually gotten censured for having porn on the screen, even though it was becausae I was tracing spam being sent through a partner's mail server and tracing back the links and weirdness in the web page source code to analyze the company to send court orders to. I was in a discreet location checking the content, and when discreetly confronted about this had the email history and previous complaints to managers from me about the issues. But I was experienced enough to know to keep all that history.

    The real conclusion from that is you have to CYA. Not only be innocent, but be able to prove it if you do anything that can be misinterpreted. I was lucky: the person who reported me, and hadn't believed my explanation of the material, learned a valuable lesson. And I got more support for setting up a DMZ for people to use their home laptops in, and keep them off the work network connecton, and to _not_ monitor that.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:57AM (#33275222)

    There's plenty of confusion about the basic definition of sexual harrassment. I've been a POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harrassment) trainer at my employer and I can tell you from hard experience - most people have no idea.

    In broad strokes, then, here's what you need to know.

    Most people think in terms of a "reasonable person" criteria. That's a relic of the past. When sexual harrassment first got major corp attention, the people in charge tended to apply common sense. They'd ask "Would a reasonable person consider this case to be sexual harrassment?" This seemed like a good approach and it did cover the basics. No reasonable person would disagree that "Sleep with me if you want this promotion" is harrassment.

    The "reasonable person" standard, however, did not address the very wide middle ground. Are dirty jokes harrassing? If not occasionally, then how often? How many per day should be allowed? Should you be held responsible for being unintentially overheard? The "reasonable person" criteria failed to address all these at first blush.

    Now, in my organization, we expected people to speak up for themselves. If someone felt harrassed and said "That makes me uncomfortable", then the person doing the harrassing action no longer had an excuse. Even if the harrasser felt that a "reasonble person" would not be harrassed by the situation, the harrasser now knew that their criteria was misused in re the person who made the complaint.

    In practice, this meant that anyone could get away with anything (except the obvious aforementioned "sex for a job" situation I previously mentioned) until they were put on warning. Since it was up to the victim to issue the warning and since the victims frequently felt they were rendered powerless by the situation, warnings weren't issued. Bad manners continued to be displayed. Major harrassment incidents stopped but more subtle things that really do impact the bottom line (things like "a pervasive atmosphere of harrassment" or however you want to phrase it) continued unabated.

    The "reasonable person" criteria had to be abandoned.

    The new criteria is pretty simple. The victim defines the crime. If someone says something is sexual harrassment, it is.

    The current situation, where *anything* is sexual harrassment if someone wants to feel they're being harrassed, results in lots of counter-intuitive weirdness. It seems crazy that if I stick up a calendar from a local sports team that has a picture of the cheerleaders on it, it's harrassment. That harrassment may not be in full flower but you better believe I'm going to be told to take it down before some super-sensitive idiot sees it and gets their feelings hurt.

    As stupid as this seems, it actually works out better in practice. By "over-specifying" the defintion of sexual harrassment, the oppressive environments that were able to continue to exist under the "reasonable person" criteria are resolved. Yes, us old white men feel a bit put upon because we can't make dirty blonde jokes. But the upside is that the whole place works better and everyone can better contribute up to their potential.

    Bottom line for people who don't work in big-corp type environments: the definition of "sexual harrassment" is much broader than seems reasonable. For practical reasons, learned the hard way over decades, the situation must be this way.

    I don't like it. It offends my sense of justice. But I've seen it done both ways and in practice, the unreasonable, nanny-state version of sexual harrassment remediation just works better for everyone involved.

  • If that's true, misuse of company funds is also serious but not on the level of sexual harassment.

    Seriously, you think sexual harassment (an entirely civil matter) is worse than embezzlement (a criminal matter)? How does that make a lick of sense?

  • by FerociousFerret (533780) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:52AM (#33275842)
    While see your point and tend to agree with it, there is still the problem of the perceived victim abusing the system. Under this broader definition, if I ask a co-worker on a date (even if only once and I let it go) and she is so inclined, she can report me for sexual harassment. As you say, the victim defines the crime and most companies have a no tolerance rule for sexual harassment, so I stand a very good chance of losing my job because of something a "reasonable person" would never consider harassment. I have seen first hand a similar situation where a female co-worker didn't like this one guy and looked for anything to report him. As soon as he had an interaction with her while working as a team on a project, she reported him and got him fired, even though another co-worker witnessed the interaction and said it was not inappropriate. Victim cries wolf and someone is fired.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:53AM (#33275860) Journal
    The first is that HP does a nice job of tracking you. In fact, in general, ALL of Corporate America does this. The important part of that, is that HR is typically given access to the data. That way, if the company needs/wants to fire you, almost ALWAYS, they have SOMETHING to base it on.

    The second is that all should realize that Hurd was not fired for Sex harassment. He was fired because ppl on the board wanted him out and did not have the courage to simply fire him.

    Third, that is DAMN scary that Sexual harassment can be looking up public information about somebody. Would I, or anybody else, watch that kind of info on an somebody in a public position, esp. an actress? Hell yah. Even the HR would have done that.
  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:17AM (#33276128)

    In principle, I agree with you. In practice, no.

    The "overall oppressive environment" where everybody has to watch their P's and Q's isn't that bad. It's really just enforced courtesy and respect. Sometimes it doesn't feel genuine and I miss the days when it was easier to tell who was a gentleman towards the ladies and who was just a crude ruffian. Nowadays, they all act about the same.

    While the "enforced respect" grates on my nerves, I do see the practical aspect. A few people feel oppressed; they can't be as big a jerk as they once were and get away with it. I don't feel too bad about that. I've seen too much ass-grabbing by executives and I've seen how it stresses out the kid who gets grabbed. (And I've seen a lot of *kids* who came to the workplace as a part of a high-school program be on the heartbreaking receiving end of this crap.) I don't really mourn, too much, the oppression currently being imposed on the ass-grabbers.

    In a more general sense, the workplace loses some of the color, humanity, vivaciousness, and joviality it once had. 30 years ago, the workplace felt more like family, including all the foibles that entails. Sometimes I miss that.

    On balance, however, the new way of doing things creates a more stable, productive environment. Ultimately, it works out better in practice.

    From a principled point of view, I continue to find the whole "let the victim define the crime" idea repulsive. But for addressing sexual harrassment in the workplace (and we're only talking about that specific case in this thread), it works better than the old way.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:28AM (#33276266)

    Excellent point. Abuse occurs. People cry "Wolf!" when they shouldn't.

    However, I work in an environment that respects everyone's rights. No one is going to get fired based on an accusation alone.

    An accusation starts a process of investigation and resolution. There will be several opportunities for both sides to understand what went on from the others perspective. There will be opportunites for everyone to reach an accomodation and go back to work.

    If the situation is pushed, eventually an employee may find themselves on paid leave pending completion of an investigation. At the conclusion of that investigation, the person may be fired. The firing process is lengthy and may wind up in front of an administrative law judge. When that happens, some semblance of "reasonable person" criteria will be re-injected into the process. An accusation of harrassment that is both unsubstantiated and unreasonable will not be upheld as a cause for firing. At that point, management may promote or transfer people just to get them separated. Lots of additional training will happen. And the situation will not be allowed to arise again.

    In short, I work in a unionized, government shop and we have policies and procedures in place that protect both the victim of harrassment as well as *anyone* from unwarranted punishment.

    It's a long, balanced process but things usually work out.

    I shudder to think how things are handled where there is no union and no process. In such environments, a victim who's lying could cause all kinds of damage. My heart goes out to any party whose difficulties are exacerbated by such an environment.

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:30AM (#33276288)
    And this is why I am glad I live in Europe and not in the US. You are describing three well known problems in US culture:
    • No win no fee litigation
    • Free comment allowed on sub judice matters
    • Lack of rights of the individual in the workplace

    Although European (EU mainstream) countries are far from perfect in this, legal restraints make it much harder for ambulance chasers to make fortunes by publicly exaggerating allegations, and employment law means that there are proper remedies at reasonable cost which means that companies are not exposed to excessive risks from ordinary human behaviour. (I might add that we don't suffer so much from kneejerk Protestant fundamentalism, but I think that's a sideshow.)

    Interestingly, when I had to do the training in the UK, our (US) trainer was quite clued up on UK law, and commented that a number of the overbearing rules that get applied in the US would be rejected by employment tribunals in the UK as unreasonable grounds for dismissal ("you guys are lucky").

    Bottom line: your comments may well be correct for the US as it is, but are a sad commentary on the US legal profession and the relationships inside US companies.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:36AM (#33276370)

    I tried that. It didn't work. :-)

    Joking aside, this has actually been tried. It didn't survive the initial stages of investigation. IOW, no person who has ever been told to take down a poster or change their computer wallpaper has felt sufficiently damaged that they were willing to make a formal complaint. If they're not willing to press the issue (especially when doing so is *so* easy), the issue doesn't exist.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @11:06AM (#33276814)

    "Already, this should suggest to you that "sexual harassment" covers more than you think it does -- after all, we were given a guide to avoiding it, not just told to show respect to our coworkers."

    I use the military "senior NCO self-defense" method though I'm now retired. I don't speak to female co-workers unless it's pure business, I don't socialize with female co-workers, and I'm flawlessly polite to them. I avoid being unaccompanied with them in the same room, but do it subtly.
    I ensure they are assigned and evaluated fairly, but given the choice I'd rather keep females at the workplace far enough away to avoid any perception of conflict-of-interest.

    Military-origin Protip:
    Keep at least one kickass female supervisor around to discipline other females. Bonus if that female is non-White. There are plenty of good females who want to do their job, but the game is what it is and it doesn't respond favorably to resistance.

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