HP, Under Investigation for Internal Spying, Sponsors 'Privacy Innovation' Award

Insert your own punch line: Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), the technology company facing federal and state investigations for spying on board members and journalists, is co-sponsor of an award for "privacy innovation."

Nominees are currently being accepted for the fourth annual HP/IAPP Privacy Innovation award, which Hewlett-Packard gives in conjunction with the Maine-based International Association of Privacy Professionals.

According to the award's Web site, the prize was created to honor "strong and unique contributions to the privacy industry."

"At present, there is not sufficient recognition for organizations that have embraced privacy as a competitive advantage, and as a business/governmental imperative," the site states.

Previous winners of the award have included eBay Inc. (EBAY), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Sprint Nextel Corp. and two Canadian provincial offices. No one from HP is a judge.

There are no plans to sever HP's ties to the award, said Trevor Hughes, the IAPP's executive director. He said his organization of corporate privacy officers focuses on consumer issues, where HP has earned high marks.

"A private investigation done through a board of directors is a bit removed from the normal things that we would cover," Hughes said. "Everything I have seen has shown me that HP is actually a very good corporate citizen when it comes to consumer privacy issues."

An HP spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

HP is facing multiple investigations into the company's surveillance of directors, employees and journalists as it sought the source of boardroom leaks to the media. HP investigators posed as other people to obtain their phone records and sent at least one reporter monitoring "spyware" in an e-mail.

An HP director quit in protest of the methods and another resigned after being outed as a leaker. Questions about HP's methods led the board chair, Patricia Dunn, to agree to cede the post in January, though she plans to remain a director.

One place to read about all this is none other the Privacy Innovation award's Web site. It contains a long list of privacy-related stories in the news, including the HP affair.