Tensions at Google have kicked up another notch this week after four employees were fired for apparently breaking data security policy, in what others have claimed is a witch hunt.
The four ex-staffers were accused of breaking policy by spying on colleagues’ work, including calendars and email. The back story appears to be that those they were monitoring were working on projects they didn’t approve of, such as a collaboration with the US Customs and Border Protection.
According to reports they repeatedly scoured through these colleagues’ data and distributed it to others despite this being “outside the scope of their jobs.”
“We have always taken information security very seriously, and will not tolerate efforts to intimidate Googlers or undermine their work, nor actions that lead to the leak of sensitive business or customer information,” a Google statement noted.
“This is not how Google’s open culture works or was ever intended to work.”
However, former colleagues and defenders of the four have claimed that what they did was in keeping with the tech giant’s code of conduct, which states: “And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up.”
They argued that Google had ulterior motives in firing the four because they were involved in union organizing at the firm.
“Here’s how it went down: Google hired a union-busting firm. Around the same time Google redrafted its policies, making it a fireable offense to even look at certain documents. And let’s be clear, looking at such documents is a big part of Google culture; the company describes it as a benefit in recruiting, and even encourages new hires to read docs from projects all across the company,” they wrote in a blog post.
“Which documents were off limits after this policy change? The policy was unclear, even explicitly stating the documents didn’t have to be labelled to be off limits. No meaningful guidance has ever been offered on how employees could consistently comply with this policy. The policy change amounted to: access at your own risk and let executives figure out whether you should be punished after the fact.”
The incident comes at a time of unprecedented employee unrest at the tech goliath, with accusations that it has been too slow to tackle sexual harassment and has a problem with unequal pay.
Source: Infosecurity Magazine