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HP CEO's Browsing History Used Against Him 230

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 elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:04AM (#33274678)
    Anyone remember their previous board spying scandal [wikipedia.org]? Must be a REAL fun place to work.
  • Re:HA HA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:05AM (#33274704)

    But better still, don't be a moron and look at anything NSFW (at least not intentionally) while at work

    Honestly, I wonder about people who do such things. Not just at work, but also in public places. I was on Amtrak once, and I sat next to someone who had a pornographic picture as his desktop background. In plain sight, on a train filled with other people, and no attempt was made to hide it.

    I have no problem with porn, or looking for "racy" clips of your former-actress-coworker, but I would think that people would want to be a bit more private about these sorts of things. Surely the CEO of HP has a home where he can privately look at whatever he wants.

  • Re:HA HA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:15AM (#33274796)
    Maybe he doesn't see anything wrong with it and doesn't care about your opinion?
  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:17AM (#33274814)

    sexual harassment is pretty serious

    The last time I worked for a big corporation, we were given a guide to avoiding sexual harassment. 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. The guide indicated that pinning up a swimsuit calendar in your cubicle is considered sexual harassment. So is look at sexy (not necessarily nude or pornographic) pictures on your computer, since a female coworker might see the display and get offended.

    Sorry, but ever since then, I have been suspicious of "sexual harassment" claims, particularly when details are scant and the claims come out of a corporation. If one her first day at HP, her first encounter with Mr. Hurd was him grabbing her butt in the copy room and asking her to get naked, then fine, it is sexual harassment. Without details indicating that, though, I would not jump to conclusions.

  • No Sympathy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:18AM (#33274820)
    While the summary is full of sympathy for Hurd, implying that he was the wronged party in this situation (boggles the mind...), I have absolutely no sympathy for him. Ignoring the fact that he got a rather sizable golden handshake which would enable most people to retire in luxury, he was stupid. When you're in a management position, especially a senior management position (such as the CEO...), you have an obligation to not cross personal boundaries. Members of senior management should know better. It's inappropriate and it's the sort of thing that leads to trouble. Shockingly, it lead to trouble.

    No sympathy. I have no clue if he was a good CEO or not, but he was a stupid one, that's for certain.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:21AM (#33274854) Journal

    sexual harassment is pretty serious. one would think we should be more sympathetic to jodie fisher, not hurd

    I agree, sexual harassment is a very serious problem and should not be taken lightly. But could you present the evidence of sexual harassment? Larry Ellison said of it [businessinsider.com] '"The H.P. board admits that it fully investigated the sexual harassment claims against Mark and found them to be utterly false." Furthermore the reason Hurd was fired appeared to be [gawker.com] "numerous instances where [Hurd's love interest, Jodie Fisher] received compensation and/or expense reimbursement where there was not a legitimate business purpose, as well as numerous instances where inaccurate expense reports were submitted by Mark or on his behalf that intended to or had the effect of concealing Mark's personal relationship with the contractor." If that's true, misuse of company funds is also serious but not on the level of sexual harassment.

    oh right, his browsing history was used against him. therefore, we should be sympathetic to him (rolls eyes)

    My concern here -- and what I think the general readership thinks -- is that Hurd did some questionable things or possibly made some enemies and so they tried to dig up anything they could on them. When the sexual harassment charges didn't stick well enough, they used a company policy that everyone is guilty of: using company resources and time to google silly things or read tabloids or do things unrelated to work. "Racy" means [wiktionary.org] "Mildly risque, exciting." So he visited some mildly risque sites?

    Basically this looks to be a scenario where Hurd upset someone and they simply looked through his browsing history in order to find a reason to terminate him. Are they constantly searching through browsing histories of all 304,000 employees to find which employment they should terminate? No, they are not. You speak so highly of ethics regarding sexual harassment but what about the ethics of terminating the employment of just one person when he is no more guilty than thousands of other employees -- which you also have the means and option to investigate.

  • Re:HA HA (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:42AM (#33275062)

    He should have gotten himself a HP smartphone and done his questionable surfing over the cell network, out of the reach of corporate IT.

  • by davev2.0 ( 1873518 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:46AM (#33275094)
    He did not "quickly resign under a shroud of secrecy". There was a complete investigation.

    The investigation found he did not commit sexual harassment, but did find he violated the company's business conduct code. That is why he was asked to resign and he resigned because the board intimated that he could resign or he could be removed.

    Maybe you should try reading the actual stories about this subject. Then, you wouldn't say things that are patently and provably false.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:00AM (#33275254) Homepage Journal

    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.

    Amen to that, although the skeptical would assume that Fiorina was a sign and not a catalyst. HP is over and anyone buying products from them today is buying punishment for their bad decisions first and foremost. HP support has become a complete nightmare and like Sun, they have been buying products and firing the people who understand them as quickly as possible.

  • by biscuitlover ( 1306893 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:04AM (#33275290)

    If you were working at a company and you found out that someone you worked with had been in some adult movies, wouldn't you be curious enough to google them and check it out? I sure as hell would.

    I can't speak about the rest of the case, but evidence of harassment or a personal relationship this is not.

  • Re:HA HA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:24AM (#33275522) Journal
    This guy is the CEO of a gigantic multinational corporation. FY 2009, he apparently took home 24million and change. I'm guessing that he could have afforded a nice laptop and a decent cellular broadband connection....
  • by Fastfwd ( 44389 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:27AM (#33275568)

    How does your morals matter?

    How is someone looking at NSFW content worse than someone reading /. ? Does it somehow mean that the person is working even less because it's also amoral to you?
    Maybe ./ is not so bad because to many of us it can be work related at least a little. But my argument still stands. Either you are allowed to browse the 'net for non-strictly work content or not, content should not matter.

  • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:48AM (#33275782) Journal

    If you were working at a company and you found out that someone you worked with had been in some adult movies, wouldn't you be curious enough to google them and check it out? I sure as hell would.

    I think I'd do it at home rather than work though...

  • Re:HA HA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:57AM (#33275912) Journal

    >>>Not only be innocent, but be able to prove it if you do anything that can be misinterpreted.

    That's assuming they give you a chance. In my experience most managers fire the employee (or contractor) and have him escorted out of the building without any opportunity to access the logs on their computer (and thereby prove innocence). You are tried, judged, and presumed guilty automatically.

  • by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @11:11AM (#33276052)

    I've been a POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harrassment) trainer at my employer

    The fact that this sort of training exists, and there's a (presumably) recognized acronym for it, means the whole situation has gone entirely too far.

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @11:51AM (#33276612)

    Because non-sociopaths actually consider other people occasionaly.

    The chances of someone being offended by seeing slashdot on your computer screen is pretty small, small enough to take the chance. And society as a whole would consider them to be the problem if they are offended.

    The chances of someone being offended by seeing pornography on your computer screen is a bit larger, large enough to try and avoid the situation. And society as a whole would consider you to be the problem when someone is offended.

    In the workplace there's the added joys of getting sued for sexual harassment because of the "hostile environment" created by having pornography on your screen for all your fellow workers to see.

    Sure if your screen is completely private that isn't a problem though I'm sure that fact that someone shouldn't have been on that side of the desk in your office isn't going to save you from losing a sexual harrassment case. And if someone does find out about it they risk having any sexual harrassment liabilities be for the entire company and not just you if they don't try and do something about it.

    Slacking off for a minute or 10 isn't something most companies care that much about (particularly amongst salaried productive staff - an assembly line worker is a different situation), putting the company at risk in a multi-million dollar sexual harassment lawsuit and even more damage in public image is something most companies care about.

    There are reasons the label is NSFW.

  • It is 2010 People (Score:2, Insightful)

    by assertation ( 1255714 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @12:11PM (#33276892)

    It is the year 2010.

    People are going to want to browse the web at work. Lets accept that.

    If you want to do more than check your personal email or buy a book ON A BREAK, buy a smart phone or buy a laptop. Then pay the fee for your OWN wireless connection for these devices.

    If you don't want to pay for these things then you should reconsider using company internet connections and company equipment to surf to places you don't want the company to know where you have been.

    With modern networking software all any network administrator has to do is literally to click 2-3 links to see EVERYWHERE you've been on the internet.

    The can also see almost all of the content you've looked at unless it is behind https via a password and login.


  • Re:HA HA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @12:12PM (#33276914) Journal
    I'd assume that you don't make it to "CEO" without learning that, while the rules usually don't apply to you, they can suddenly apply good and hard if, for other reasons entirely, you are no longer considered to be desirable...
  • Re:HA HA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @12:19PM (#33277014) Journal

    OTH, he probably felt he was doing nothing wrong until he got caught.

    When you're working at that level (CEO at a company as big as that), then your work and personal time tend to blur. In fact, ignore "tend to" you lose all separation. People call you up with work problems all the time, you're never disconnected from your email, you spend so much time with your PA that they're as much family member as colleague. And don't even mention the travelling. So you're hardly likely to carry two laptops everywhere you go or swap from one to the other constantly.

    It's easy for people here to say "shouldn't have done this through work account" but in reality it's not so simple. And the argument of misusing the company's resources is valid, but the salary and expenses (legitimate expenses) of someone in that position are so high that it would seem absurd to such a person to say they were stealing from the company. They could (and do) repay the debt by working an extra five minutes that they're supposes to. Well, except that these sorts of jobs don't come with "forty hours per week" on the contract, but the point stands. CEO of a company isn't a job, it's a lifestyle.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @12:28PM (#33277148)

    I think we're more alike than you realize. I'm willing to swill the koolaid in this job because I'm in a government agency that invents next to nothing, that has as its most important mission the uninterrupted, reliable delivery of vital services. That's not an environment where joie de vivre is the highest virtue.

    In practice, my workplace isn't the same as the rectal probe manufacturer in "Joe vs. The Volcano". (Great movie, btw.) Neither is it American Apparel. I rather like the work/life balance we've achieved.

    That being said, if I owned my own company, it would be a much more lighthearted place. It could be, because I wouldn't be responsible for, well, all the really basic, non-flashy, kinda boring but still really important stuff that my current employer must do.

    Thanks for your comments; they're definitely worth pondering, especially by people who have not yet hired on. If I had understood beforehand the culture of my employer more fully, I'm not sure if I would have hired on. It's something that young 'uns should pay attention to.

  • Re:HA HA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bmajik ( 96670 ) <matt@mattevans.org> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @02:23PM (#33278818) Homepage Journal

    The other day i was sitting at a stop light, and i looked over at the pickup next to me, and hanging from the rear-view mirror was a picture of a naked woman with enormous breasts.

    And i thought "hrm.. wonder what the guy who drives this truck looks like?"

    And i noticed a man driving, and a woman sitting in the passenger seat, i.e., a couple.

    My thoughts wondered about the dynamics of that situation. Was that a woman who lived in an oppressive relationship, where her sense of self, and her idea of self-worth, and her opinion, were all suppressed? Was she desperately looking for a way out? Was this the best she could do?

    Or, did she just not care about such things at all? Has she gotten over the fact that men are visual animals with a natural lust for the physical form? Does she simply accept him at his nature, and realize that it isn't a reflection of her or what he thinks of her?

    I would wager that 80% of the over-the-road trucks in the USA have a 2D naked woman somewhere in the cab. It's as much of being a trucker as the CB radio.

    For some reason, its more acceptable in a trucker cab, because that is "more private" than the glass box of a pickup cab, and that is "more private" than a laptop screen (to some people).

    But modern work/life dynamics (and trucking regulation -- thanks DOT) are such that the trucker is in his office less than the information worker is in his (i.e. their computer screen is on...)

    But i also think there is a just-below-the-water insidiousness in these judgements. I see a naked woman in a pickup, and i shift my gaze to see what the person _looks like_ who's driving the truck. I have some kind of inbuilt bias about what kind of person lets me see that they have naked pictures.

    I expect most slashdotters are like this -- we've been tought that naked pictures is something to "get caught with", and that someone who might display them publicly has something wrong with them, and as such, when we see them in public life, we wonder what kind of wrong-person is responsible.

    There is this idea that truckers can have naked pictures in their offices, and that CEOs can't.

    Why are CEOs held to a higher "moral" or "ethical" standard than truckers? Aren't both of them just people?

  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @02:26PM (#33278866)
    Ah, I see. Morality is what the majority says it is. A great way to justify slavery and chauvinism, just walk back the timeline a bit until you get the moral majority agree with.

    Sexual harassment unfortunately has succumbed to the 'I have a right not to be offended' school of thought(crime). There are most certainly legitimate cases of sexual harassment, but I think that the first test of legitimacy needs to be direction/intent. Is the act directed a person? No? Well then it had better be a pretty egregious act bordering on a hate crime in order to be legitimate (such as 'all women are %slurs%' although not directed at a person includes the person as class and therefore is harassing).

    However at levels lower than that you arrive at differences of opinion and matters of taste. A man might have a calendar full of attractive women because he thinks they are objects for his cold, uncaring use or because he genuinely thinks that female beauty is a sublime addition to their intellectual capacity and depth of character but can appreciated for its own sake. And while you can start fabricating odds of one or the other depending on your prejudice toward men, in any case you can never indite him for that alone which you believe is in his head without some kind of corroborating statement or behavior. As a corollary, a woman may see such a man with a calendar as a brutish ignorant sexist pig, or may be more pragmatic and think it is natural for men to want to see attractive women and who does it harm. In such a scenario the man is indited depending on the character of the 'victim' as opposed to the act itself, a terrible standard for anything approaching 'justice'.

    Therefore while contemporary sexual harassment standards must be borne in mind when considering practical outcomes and impacts consequent to behavior, I maintain that those standards are in excess of what should be permissible in a fair construction of ethics.
  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @03:38PM (#33279874)

    It's got nothing to do with morality.

    It's got to with legality and not wanting to offend people unecessarily. For sociopaths and assholes the first should matter, for the rest of us the second does.

    I don't yell loudly on the train. I turn my phone ringer off at the cinema. I don't talk on my phone in the cinema. I leave the table to answer my phone at a group meal. I turn the television volume down when other people are sleeping in the house. And I don't look at pornography at work. These are all the same class of thing - I don't want to annoy others unnecessarily.

    I do look at slashdot at work - that does not annoy others unnecessarily.

    Note that it has nothing to do with the morality or pornography or the threat of sexual harassment lawsuits, it's just not being an asshole.

    Some people are assholes though, and hence we have things like sexual harassment rules. And yes they go overboard, thank the assholes for that - without them there wouldn't be any such rules in the first place.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson