By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 21, 2008
Verizon Wireless said last night that a number of its employees have "accessed and viewed" President-elect Barack Obama's personal cellphone account without authorization.
The company said all employees who accessed the account -- whether they were authorized to or not -- were immediately put on leave with pay. The firm said it was evaluating the circumstances of each employee's access to the account to determine appropriate action, including disciplinary proceedings.
"We apologize to President-elect Obama and will work to keep the trust our customers place in us every day," chief executive Lowell McAdam said in a statement.
Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson declined to comment beyond the company's prepared statement and wouldn't specify how many employees saw the account or what kind of information was viewed.
The breech of personal data comes as some security experts question whether Obama, who used the Web as a central part of his campaign strategy, should for security purposes stop using devices to transfer e-mail and other data when he becomes president.
The account has been inactive for several months, Verizon said. Obama's phone was a flip-phone as opposed to a Blackberry or other smartphone device that is better suited for heavy e-mail and other data services, Verizon said.
While the company wouldn't elaborate on what kind of data was viewed on Obama's account, it could include calling and billing records.
Verizon will soon become the nation's largest wireless carrier after completing its merger with Alltel.