Remember the HP pretexting scandal? While charges had already been filed against company insiders, up until yesterday, the actual firm that did the pretexting had yet to have charges brought upon it. Now the feds have thrown the book at private investigator Bryan Wagner for gaining access to a reporter's phone records using the controversial method. In addition to the direct legal action, there have been several calls by politicians to strengthen and clarify laws that would ban pretexting. Similar proposals have been made in Canada, prompting a Canadian private investigator to write a blog post defending the practice (via The Daily Caveat). The PI's argument is that there are plenty of legitimate uses of the practice, particularly in more grave situations, such as investigating a kidnapping or collecting from a deadbeat. He argues, more broadly, that deception is a key part of all law enforcement, both public and private, and that pretexting is just a one form of deception. Of course, it's easy to argue by making an appeal to emotion, as he does by bringing up kidnapping. Then again, it seems like much of the outrage surrounding the HP case came from revulsion over spying on a reporter, as opposed to the specific tactic that was used. Obviously, the law needs to protect people from having their privacy pried into and abused, but it's easy to imagine politicians going too far in their zeal to be seen as champions of a popular issue.
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