Ex-Wal-Mart worker admits to spy campaign
A Wal-Mart employee, who was fired last month for intercepting a reporter's calls, says he was part of a sophisticated surveillance operation.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. worker said he was part of a large surveillance operation that included snooping on employees, stockholders and others, according to a Wall Street Journal report Wednesday.
Security worker Bruce Gabbard was fired last month after 19 years with the company for intercepting a reporter's phone calls, the paper said.
Gabbard said he recorded the calls because he felt pressured to stop embarrassing leaks. But he said his spying activities were sanctioned by superiors.
Gabbard said that as part of the surveillance, the retailer infiltrated an anti-Wal-Mart group to determine if it planned protests at the company's annual meeting last year and deployed monitoring systems to record the actions of anyone connected to its global computer network.
Many of Gabbard's statements were confirmed by other former Wal-Mart employees, the paper said.
"This group is no longer operating in the same manner that it did prior to the discovery of the unauthorized recording of telephone conversations. There have been changes in leadership, and we have strengthened our practices and protocols in this area," the company said in a statement.
Wal-Mart has since disconnected some systems and an internal investigation of the group's activities was launched earlier this year, the paper said citing an executive in the security-information industry.
Wal-Mart has always had strict limits on what its employees can do while at work. Store employees are prohibited from using personal cell phones on the job. And managers receive a list of email addresses and phone numbers their employees have used as well as a list of Web sites visited, the paper said citing current and former employees.
The company also limits Internet access and blocks social-networking and video sites, according to Gabbard.
"Like most major corporations, it is our corporate responsibility to have systems in place, including software systems, to monitor threats to our network, intellectual property and our people. These situations are limited to cases which are high risk to the company or our associates, such as criminal fraud or security issues," Wal-Mart said in a statement.
A U.S. attorney is investigating whether any laws were violated as a result of the phone and pager intercepts, according to the Journal.