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11/21/2008
05:15 PM
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Obama's Cell Phone Records Accessed, Verizon Admits

The account in question had been inactive for several months and was a voice flip phone, rather than a smartphone packed with e-mail and other data.

Verizon Wireless president and CEO Lowell McAdam apologized to President-elect Barack Obama on Friday for the actions of an undisclosed number of company employees who accessed and viewed Obama's personal cell phone account.

McAdam said the account had been inactive for several months and that it was a voice flip phone, rather than a smartphone with e-mail and other data.

"All employees who have accessed the account -- whether authorized or not -- have been put on immediate leave, with pay," McAdam said in a statement. "As the circumstances of each individual employee’s access to the account are determined, the company will take appropriate actions. Employees with legitimate business needs for access will be returned to their positions, while employees who have accessed the account improperly and without legitimate business justification will face appropriate disciplinary action."

Verizon declined to provide further comment or explanation.

This isn't the first time records related to Obama have been accessed without authorization. In March, State Department officials apologized after three employees of State Department contractors accessed the passport files of then presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Obama.

Data related to celebrities has lured many workers to violate laws and workplace rules. UCLA Medical Center employees, for example, were found to have viewed the medical records of actress Farah Fawcett and singer Britney Spears without authorization several years ago.

A report released earlier this year by the California Department of Public Health described an audit of one UCLA Medical Center employee's electronic activities from January 2004 through June 2006 and found "109 patients whose confidential records were breached." The report says that "more than half of the patients were noteworthy individuals, some of whom were admitted under an assumed name (AKA) to provide anonymity while receiving care within the facility's health care system."

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