Is Wal-Mart the next Hewlett-Packard?
A Wal-Mart employee who worked in the company's security division was fired for recording phone conversations between a Wal-Mart employee and a New York Times reporter and for intercepting employee pager messages. Bruce Gabbard, a veteran employee who worked as a security technician for Wal-Mart, says the company regularly surveilled its employees, shareholders and critics. He says he was acting within the parameters of his job orders and that his activities were approved by Kenneth H. Senser, a senior vice president and former CIA operative who has headed Wal-Mart's global security operations since 2003. Gabbard says that Wal-Mart, like HP, was intent on finding the source of leaked company documents and information.
Wal-Mart told the Wall Street Journal this week that "it is our corporate responsibility to have systems in place, including software systems, to monitor threats to our network, intellectual property and our people," but said Gabbard went too far and violated company policy in recording conversations. The company also fired Gabbard's supervisor and said the two had not received orders or permission to record phone conversations.
But the Journal has uncovered some contradictions in Wal-Mart statements. The company says the recording of the New York Times reporter and others occurred over 4 to 5 months, but the Journal says it has information that the surveillance lasted more than a year and half and that other sources confirm parts of what Gabbard alleges.
According to this AP story:
Gabbard told the Wall Street Journal he was part of a large, sophisticated surveillance operation by the Threat Research and Analysis Group, a unit of Wal-Mart's Information Systems Division.
. . .
Gabbard told the newspaper that Wal-Mart sent an employee to infiltrate an anti-Wal-Mart group to learn if it was going to protest at the annual shareholders' meeting and investigated McKinsey & Co. employees it believed leaked a memo about Wal-Mart's health care plans. It also uses software programs to read e-mails sent by workers using private e-mail accounts, he said.