Google sacks four staff for alleged data security and privacy violations

Data security

Being a Googler seemed more of a relaxed kind of a affair a few years ago, but some staff and management are now at loggerheads over work projects and the sharing of data.

Google has sacked four activist workers on alleged data privacy grounds. The company has faced opposition from staff who don’t want to work on some of its US government contracts, which was apparently one reason Google Cloud never bothered bidding for the $10bn US military JEDI cloud contract, recently won by Microsoft

The dismissals reportedly followed an internal investigation by Google that had found the sacked employees had wrongly accessed the work and personal calendars of other Google workers.

An internal email issued by Google read: “This is not how Google’s open culture works or was ever intended to work.” The leaked email was first revealed by news site Bloomberg.

Some Google staff say a number of US government contracts contravene the company’s “ethical values”. Such contracts complained about include work for US Customs and Border Protection. And last year, Google decided not to renew the Project Maven contract, which was an image recognition project involving US military drones, that had attracted protests from some Google employees.

The company alleged the fired staff had been involved in “clear and repeated violations of our data security policies”, including after being warned.

The search, advertising and cloud services company has not revealed the names of who was fired. But Googler Rebecca Rivers, who had campaigned against Google’s work for US Customs, had been suspended recently. She took to Twitter to say she was “being terminated”.

Last week, some Google workers in San Francisco held a rally for Rivers and fellow worker Laurence Bernard, who was also suspended. The protest claimed action against the pair was part of crackdown on “internal dissent”.

Google said the four staff that had been dismissed were involved in “systematic searches for other employees’ material and work”. It also claimed a chunk of the information that had been accessed was distributed outside the company.

Google trumpets openness around the way it allows its staff to work, including access to company information that has no relation to their own specific jobs, although lately it has warned staff to be more careful with internal information.

Google said one of the “terminated” staff had accessed other employees’ calendars and had set up automated notifications “detailing the work and whereabouts of those employees, including personal matters”.