back to article Googlers fired after tracking colleagues working on US border cop projects. Now, if they had monetized that stalking...

Google is under fire for sacking four staffers it says electronically stalked colleagues working on technology for the US Customs and Border Protection. The four were fired after an investigation by the web giant revealed they had tracked fellow Googlers suspected of working on projects they didn’t like – namely, an in- …

  1. IGotOut

    Simple...

    The employees simply need to state...we take privacy seriously......a bug was discovered......only a small number were affected.

    When it seems anyone can see anyone else's calendars and see the project documentation they are working on, it's no surprise the company doesn't give a toss about its end users privacy.

    Cue a MS O365 / Teams advert showing how easy it is to stop others snooping on your work

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Simple...

      Yet really someone puts private details in a company calendar? I just set the time I'm out of office and not working. Every other detail is left out. Of course if you work for Google and trust their calendars, you deserve to be tracked.

      1. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: Simple...

        In O365 if you set events to private then they are private unless you or a sysadmin decide otherwise.

      2. EveryTime

        Re: Simple...

        I find the fired employees defense of 'internal openness' to be disingenuous to point of being offensive.

        Google employees are going to be using Google Calendar for work, which means that they almost certainly be using it for their private calendar events as well. It may be that other Google employees with access to their work calendars incidentally get access their private events as well. Even if they don't, the ability to get alerts about changes to the calendar mean that the appointments that incidentally get added as work events, but are immediately changed to private/personal events, end up not being private.

        If those employees were stalking others at the company by having calendar event change alerts, that's exactly the behavior that Google should be firing people over. You are always counting on your employees to be ethical and responsible. Even if you can implement technical limits, and often you can't, there are always holes. The lack of technical restrictions on what they were doing isn't relevant, it's the behavior that is at issue.

        1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Simple...

          "Google employees are going to be using Google Calendar for work"

          If only there were some way to have multiple accounts, one personal and one corporate.

          "If those employees were stalking others at the company by having calendar event change alerts, that's exactly the behavior that Google should be firing people over."

          The behavior in itself does not seem problematic; I can think of any number of legitimate use cases for wanting to know when someone is available or perhaps when they're giving an open presentation on an interesting topic. It appears possible that the employees in question abused this capability, but I have to wonder if Google would have cared if the employees weren't using it to expose behavior they thought was ethically questionable. Google certainly has form in covering up dodgy stalking behavior (e.g. managers stalking employees "romantically"), so ask yourself why these four got the boot.

        2. overunder Bronze badge

          Re: Simple...

          "You are always counting on your employees to be ethical and responsible. "

          At Google? Uhhhhhhhh, the year 1999 called....

          1. John Jennings

            Re: Simple...

            more like 1984.....

        3. Aussie Doc
          Big Brother

          Re: Simple...

          "...to be ethical and responsible. "

          Ah, herein lies the problem, methinks.

    2. iron Silver badge

      Re: Simple...

      Alternatively three of them could announce it was all the work of a rogue engineer and throw the fourth person under the bus.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now, if they had monetized that stalking...

    Cheers to the author for beating me to that snark!

  3. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    Hoist on own petard

    Amusing to see that Google's encouragement and reward of internal culture of self-righteous virtue-display totalitarianism, had exactly the consequences internally that anyone would predict.

    The only surprise, and it's a biggie, is that Google did anything about it.

    I can only assume that the stalkage etc moved into legal/crime territory so they had to play the CYA card.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: I can only assume that the stalkage etc moved into legal/crime territory

      You missed this bit then: "The four just so happened to be involved in labor organizing at the internet goliath"?

      1. Tomato42 Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: I can only assume that the stalkage etc moved into legal/crime territory

        ah, yes, a crime more horrible than arson and murder: unionising

        at least to shareholders

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: I can only assume that the stalkage etc moved into legal/crime territory

          it does sound like a reason to stalk the stalkers, which may be how they found out about their excuse for legitimately firing them.

          Actually, depending on how the union works, it may be *beneficial*. The stereotype union wants too much money for too little work, is thuggish, goes on strike at the slightest provocation, yotta yotta. A good union acts like a human resources department combined with a labor force that produces quality work at a reasonable cost to the management company.

          However I think any kind of white collar union is a bad idea. It's the wrong kind of thinking pattern for GOOD engineers. The best engineers are creative types who think non-linearly, often 'out of the box'. A unionized labor force, however, tends to behave 'collectively', not something that induces creativity nor 'out of the box' thinking. The two are mutually exclusive (in my view).

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: I can only assume that the stalkage etc moved into legal/crime territory

        You missed this bit then: "The four just so happened to be involved in labor organizing at the internet goliath"?

        While I saw that and have few doubts its played it's part, it is in every way trumped by this part:

        "They argued on Monday that a section of the corporation's code of conduct that says Google employees should “speak up if you see something that you think isn’t right” provided ample justification for tracking and scrutinizing their colleagues."

        Sorry, but data my employer keeps and retains about me, my work, and pretty well anything else, isn't provided so colleagues who feel morally superior can snoop through it at leisure for whatever ends they feel is morally justifiable.

        The division I work for at the bank is popular with some, and unpopular with others (an equal mix of envy and ideological objections), and my colleagues have absolutely no right to track me. If you don't like a legally permissible project the company is pursuing then you need to leave: you don't get to raid my data and use it for your own ideological ends.

        Did they leak the data? Who knows. Frankly it doesn't matter. They had no business using it for ideological purposes when that was not the reason for which it was provided to the company or for which it had been retained.

        Rights and laws, including the right to privacy and the law regarding data access, apply to everyone, not only to those deemed worthy by those who consider themselves societies morality police. This might not be a popular view, but think it through. I decide I'm morally superior to you so I decide to track you using data supplied to your employer for legitimate aims - I've made all the decisions and you bear all of the consequences, yet I've not actually been permitted or authorized to do any of what I did, I just decided my morals are superior to yours and then did as I pleased. That, in a nutshell, is their defence.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: I can only assume that the stalkage etc moved into legal/crime territory

          "This might not be a popular view"

          I hope you're WRONG about it NOT being a popular view... because it SHOULD be the *ONLY* view, that is, to NOT be a "feely ideological activist" at work, and abuse data from the workplace against other employees, especially when their implied intent was "CANCEL CULTURE" kinds of stuff.

          Oh, and ALSO a big thumbs up for the entire post.

        2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: only to those deemed worthy by those who consider themselves societies morality police

          I'm afraid we're behind the times, old chap. That is PRECISELY what a LOT of people have now been trained to think. It's been strongly blanket-imposed in most unis in UK, Australia, and USA for many years, for example.

          The position you outline (rights and laws apply to everyone), previously considered the core basis for Western Civilisation and a primary reason for its success, is now termed "alt-right". You will also be loudly labelled alt-right if you mention facts which conflict with the self-appointees' Approved Narratives.

          Watch it, or El Reg will have to NoPlatform you, just to protect themselves.

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: only to those deemed worthy by those who consider themselves societies morality police

            Watch it, or El Reg will have to NoPlatform you, just to protect themselves.

            El Reg wouldn't do that to me - all those people that usually come here to downvote me must bring a lot of eyeballs to their advertisers ;-)

        3. (m)any

          Re: I can only assume that the stalkage etc moved into legal/crime territory

          While I do agree with your comment, I can see justification for "not playing by the rules" occasionally. Whistleblowing comes to mind.

          <blockquote>...legally permissible...</blockquote>

          Let's remember that laws and regulations change (hopefully to get in line with community expectations). Some things are legal now while they shouldn't be (polluting, lobbying, revolving door concept, etc etc). This has less to do with a person's sense of moral superiority, and more with the fact that the legislative process is being (legally) corrupted by money & power.

    2. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

      Re: Hoist on own petard

      Bearing in mind some of the biggest miscreants are managers and NOT your average working joe (who, let's be honest, rarely has the opportunity to get up to any worthwhile misbehaviour. Looking at dodgy {union) websites during lunchbreak is one thing, misusing corporate funds etc not normally an option available...), were they getting too close to catching someone with real power who really was up to no good..?

      Whistleblowing is all well and good as long as it's [i]someone else[/i] gets caught...

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Hoist on own petard

      "I can only assume that the stalkage etc moved into legal/crime territory... "

      No, quite the opposite. It's clearly stated in the article that the 'stalking' involved keeping tabs on the PUBLIC (at least within Google) details of the calendars / projects of a few co-workers. Not having a legal/criminal offense to use as an excuse for the firing, Google concocted the "they leaked company data" reason (which however, the security team contradicted in their interview with at least one of the sacked people)

      Either way it's the US, so Google don't really need a legal excuse for the firing, they can fire anybody at any time. The excuses drummed up are more of a PR thing

      1. prinz

        Re: Hoist on own petard

        "No, quite the opposite"

        Quite the opposite?! Really?

        You do not seem to be aware that the US and its States have laws against Stalking.

        Here is California's :

        https://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/past-programs/stalking-resource-center/stalking-laws/criminal-stalking-laws-by-state/california

        Section (e) is subjective to the opinions of the victims --- note that the article clearly states that the victims felt "scared or unsafe", thus meeting this requirement (it would also be a huge clue that they had already been visiting lawyers).

        Section (e) also states "no legitimate purpose" (being self-righteous is not a legitimate purpose)

        Section (h) addresses methods (i.e. use of computers).

        Whether it is "PUBLIC" or not is orthogonal to the issue of stalking.

        Therefore, the stalking gang forced Google's hand - if Google did nothing, the victims might choose to file a criminal complaint giving them leverage in a civil suit. (And, possibly dragging some of its management into the criminal complaint as well for not acting when warned).

        Even if the victims chose not to file a criminal complaint, a civil lawsuit would still be possible and the bad press would be widespread.

        So, to keep this problem from exploding out of control, Google got rid of the source of the problem : the stalkers.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Hoist on own petard

          IANAL so I won't go into the detail...

          ...just to say that any law that uses subjective feelings to judge if an offence has occurred is not well thought-out.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Hoist on own petard

            a qualified disagreement with the 'any law that uses subjective feelings', as much as I *HATE* the 'F' word "FEEL"... and here's why: If you "feel threatened", or are intimidated, or are constantly "creeped out" by someone's behavior, it can be considered a form of 'assault' [i.e. threats of harm and/or harassment].

            The intent of such a law is to create a non-threatening society. And of course the details of whether any claims are valid belong to the jury and lawyers and judges involved in the cases, appellate courts, and so on. And IANAL.

            So yeah I'm generally apalled by "FEELY" things, but in this case, there may be no other way to describe it as the legal statute. NOT having such a statute is probably WORSE.

            (sad icon because it's a sick sad world sometimes)

            1. cornetman Bronze badge

              Re: Hoist on own petard

              I'm pretty sure I disagree wholeheartedly with that position.

              Legal proceedings should be governed by demonstrable facts not the "opinion" of the plaintiff.

              Otherwise, a defendant might only know if they were guilty of a crime retrospectively.

              That is an intolerable situation.

              1. ratfox Silver badge
                Alert

                Would be nice if the world was that simple, however...

                Legal proceedings should be governed by demonstrable facts not the "opinion" of the plaintiff.

                The difference between romance and harassment is pretty much only in the feelings of the persons involved.

                Otherwise, a defendant might only know if they were guilty of a crime retrospectively.

                Legally, you pretty much only know if you were guilty of a crime when the jury returns the verdict, and that always happens long after the fact.

            2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: Hoist on own petard

              Anger is a feeling too, bob, and you seem to BE ANGRY QUITE A LOT.

          2. Tigra 07 Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Hoist on own petard

            "just to say that any law that uses subjective feelings to judge if an offence has occurred is not well thought-out."

            And that's why hate crime laws are often a bad idea and do more harm than good. Offence is often subjective. I speak as someone who has a protected characteristic under the equality act.

          3. prinz

            Re: Hoist on own petard

            @JMCH, I agree - how someone feels is not really relevant - and this CA law *agrees* with you on this point.

            That's why the second part of (e) is key - "serves no legitimate purpose".

            The reason for the stalking behavior in question does not appear to serve any legitimate purpose and could easily be interpreted as a threat - especially *if* the stalkers let it be known that they were "watching" the victims.

            Only when **both** conditions are met do you have something to begin to work with.

            It isn't just "feelings".

            For example : A police detective tracking a suspect as part of an investigation. That would be legitimate - even if the suspect felt "unsafe" - the officer has a legitimate reason.

            But, if the same police officer were tracking a woman because he liked her and she felt "unsafe", that would not be a legitimate reason and then becomes stalking (eg. https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article235979622.html).

            Hope that help makes it more clear that it isn't just how one "feels".

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Hoist on own petard

          I don't know why anybody would give you a thumbs down... because pretty much everything you say is correct. I guess 2 people didn't like truth or something.

          I think of it this way: if employees at my workplace were in ANY way using company time and/or company resources to TRACK ME, even if it's public info, for WHATEVER motivation they have, it's not only CREEPY it's unnerving. it sounds like an opportunity to invite said stalkers to the local boxing gym, for a 1 on 1 "sparring match" with no timekeeper nor referee... [and watch their bravery leak out onto the floor in a large yellow puddle]

        3. John Jennings

          Re: Hoist on own petard

          It would also likely be a breach of CCPA - Californias new data privacy regulations. It has been postponed for staff for one year, but.... It does require companies protect personal data with 'reasonable security procedures and practices'

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Hoist on own petard

      "internal culture of self-righteous virtue-display totalitarianism"

      So *MANY* levels of "wrong" involved, I don't know where to begin [snarking].

      I'm not surprised to see Google fire these people for doing what Google does to EVERYONE. Why? because "Google reserves the right" and its an EXCLUSIVE right, in their eyes, to spy on EVERYONE.

      But employees need to keep in mind, the job is an exchange of money for valuable work. It's not a crusade, a mission, political activism, one feudal land warring against another, yotta yotta.

      Still, the fact that they were UNION ORGANIZERS does give me some pause for thought...

  4. RichardB

    Perhaps more to the story...

    "Speaking through a megaphone pointed at Google's offices in San Francisco where he had until recently been employed,"

    Can't help but wonder if perhaps some people were already on a sh1tty list.

    1. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps more to the story...

      Somehow i doubt that's going to audible through corporate double glazing.

      1. Persona Bronze badge

        Re: Perhaps more to the story...

        The golden rule for people who are that list is not to do anything naughty because it will be caught and used against them.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Perhaps more to the story...

        people who publicly shout with megaphones pointed at their former employer's office building (In My Bombastic Opinion) only want THE NEWS MEDIA to hear them

  5. Solarflare

    I find the argument bizarre

    ...Nor were they told they couldn’t set up a system that alerted them whenever someone they were targeting added anything to their internal calendar...

    I've never explicitly been told that I can't push someone into a wood chipper, scopp up the remains into a high powered pressure washer and then blow said remains up the arse of the now-deceased's mother. However, I highly doubt that would be an effective defense in court. I find it bizarre that "we were never actually told that we couldn't track people and set up systems to alert us any time they so much as broke wind" is actually an excuse that's being used here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I find the argument bizarre

      And yet, believe or not, there *are* actually written laws that make it illegal to push somebody into a woodchipper. And I'm pretty sure that you've been explicitly made aware at some point that those laws exist, however strenuously you deny it.

      If you haven't, please, talk to a lawyer.

      If Google hasn't written down such rules that forbids an alert system on other people's calendars (and clearly, they were actively encouraging looking at other people's calendars), then the excuse looks very much valid. Using convoluted imagery to make your own invalid argument look fun and then tie it to somebody's else much more valid one, that's a crappy move.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: I find the argument bizarre

        Really? So any behaviour not explicitly proscribed in law is acceptable to you regardless of how amoral, creepy and antisocial that is, as long as it hasn't been explicitly disallowed by corporate policy?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I find the argument bizarre

          "Really? So any behaviour not explicitly proscribed in law is acceptable to you regardless of how amoral, creepy and antisocial that is, as long as it hasn't been explicitly disallowed by corporate policy?"

          We're talking about Google. It's not only allowed by their corporate policy, it was encouraged to look at other calendars.

          And of course, creepiness and amorality, that's their *whole fscking business model*. So yes, in addition to things not being proscribed being indeed legally allowed, there's a rather huge stench of hypocrisy here that doesn't seem to bother you.

          1. LeahroyNake Silver badge

            Re: I find the argument bizarre

            I have told Google several times that I do not want to be tracked by them but they are still doing it. My telling them has been via their multiple tools but they obviously haven't got the message.

            Perhaps a sternly worded letter to them may help as I can't afford a trip to their HQ to use the megaphone option unfortunately.

        2. E_Nigma

          Re: I find the argument bizarre

          There are two approaches to this problem:

          1) What isn't allowed by the law is forbidden.

          2) What isn't banned by the law is permitted.

          In which of the two systems would you like to live? Because unless you opt for number 2, then you can't bring legal consequences against someone for doing something that isn't legally denoted as illegal. You can judge them on a personal level, you can advocate banning their practice, but you can't institutionally punish them for something that isn't illegal, because if we allow that, we have essentially abolished the law and we'll just have those in power making judgements based on their personal sense of justice and we'll have a system that's wide open for abuse.

          1. holmegm Bronze badge

            Re: I find the argument bizarre

            "because if we allow that, we have essentially abolished the law and we'll just have those in power making judgements based on their personal sense of justice and we'll have a system that's wide open for abuse."

            You've literally just described the miscreants here. They used their access to Google systems to creepily spy on their coworkers, all in service of enforcing ideological conformity to their ideology. But it's OK to them, because their personal sense of justice is better than those they were spying on.

          2. AVee

            Re: I find the argument bizarre

            There are only just two approaches if you live in a black and white world where everything has to go to the letter and nobody is capable of making a judgment call. You are suggesting two systems in which common sense does not apply. I'd rather live in neither of those, but in one where common sense is applied.

            In a lot of places something which clearly goes against the intention (though not the letter) of a law is still illegal. So you can strike a balance 'What isn't allowed by the law is forbidden, anything which clearly goes against the intent of the law also is forbidden, everything else is allowed'. In this case, if the intention of a set of rules is to create a work environment where people feel save and you do something which clearly makes people feel unsafe, even though not specifically forbidden, it can still be a violation.

            Also, the potential abuse is why 'those in power' should not be the same people as those making judgments. It's called 'Separation of powers'. Now in corporate environments this separation rarely exists, and I don't see it in this case either. Usually there is just one 'power', called money. (For an other example, see what happens if the president gets to appoint the head of the FCC...)

          3. RealityisntReal

            Re: I find the argument bizarre

            Except that stalking IS illegal. Even if Google allowed employees to look at others calendars, they had that in place for legitimate company business - NOT to allow stalking of others that the individuals disagreed with on a moral/ethical basis. Even if that exemption isn't specifically spelled out, anyone with a working brain and actual morals/ethics would know that - without it needing to be specifically prohibited.

      2. Darren Coleman

        Re: I find the argument bizarre

        There's a multitude of things that would pass the bar of gross misconduct in a company, yet it isn't necessary to list every single act explicitly in company docs because any rational, moral individual knows right from wrong.

        There's also the fact that these people were previously warned about their behaviour but carried on anyway. Seems to me that they cared more about their crusade than they did their jobs, which is fine but it's a bit dramatc to complain about being sacked for breaching company policy repeatedly and maliciously.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I find the argument bizarre

          No, you don't need to list every single thing, precisely why I said that laws forbid killing somebody with a woodchipper even when the OP pretended he was not aware of any such ban.

          However, when you encourage people to look at each other calendars, then it's a little odd to suddenly assert that it's stalking.

          Unless you were personally a witness to those warnings, you're just accepting as fact what one side is saying.

          And the two sides do seem to differ quite a bit on what was said about the reasons for the dismissals.

          1. EveryTime

            Re: I find the argument bizarre

            If you can't tell the difference between

            - looking at the calendars of co-workers so that you set up a meeting on a work project that everyone has an interest in

            and

            - setting up alerts so that you can track what people you don't like are doing

            then you shouldn't be allowed to continue in a position of responsibility.

          2. juvenihil

            Re: I find the argument bizarre

            If one of the side is a union, you just need to hear the other one.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I find the argument bizarre

        "... then the excuse looks very much valid."

        You obviously have not talked to a California lawyer.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I find the argument bizarre

          True :)

        2. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: I find the argument bizarre

          >You obviously have not talked to a California lawyer.

          If you work here you'll know that this is a "right to work" state. What this means in practice is that your employer can fire you at any time without giving you notice or a reason for dismissal. They usually moderate this a bit because you don't want to get too bad a reputation as an employer but realistically the only distinction when they fire you is whether it was 'for cause' or not. (This affects your ability to claim unemployment.)

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: I find the argument bizarre

      Yes indeed.

      It's a bizzare stretch to interpret “speak up if you see something that you think isn’t right” as "provided ample justification for tracking and scrutinizing their colleagues.". Though I suspect working for a company with blatant ehtical disregard and a wanton desire to track everyone and everything will bring out the same traits in certain individuals.

    3. E_Nigma

      Re: I find the argument bizarre

      I would agree with the spirit of your post if it weren't for the fact that Google makes employees' calendars public to their co-workers and gives the option to create just such alerters. It can be certainly be argued that this isn't why Google created the option, but if we combine the fact that Google did give the option to track one's coworkers' activities when one finds it worthwhile with their saying to their employees to act "if they see something that they think isn’t right", it can be said that the fired employees were using company provided tools to act upon a company policy, checking up on a project of dubious morality.

    4. JoeCool

      Re: I find the argument bizarre

      You are equating an internal corporate policy/process issue with an invented social-norms and criminal law situation. Nice combo of ridiculous and inane.

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: I find the argument bizarre

      I've never explicitly been told that I can't push someone into a wood chipper

      That's because it's already covered by another law - the one about murder. And US law (I think) operates on much the same basis as UK law (hardly surprising seeing as they stole our common law when the gave us the big hey-ho) in that anything not specifically banned is allowed..

  6. iron Silver badge

    > They also point to the fact that they were not told specifically that they couldn’t read all the documents... Nor were they told they couldn’t set up a system..."

    I've not been told specifically that shitting on the CEO's desk is off limits but I know not to do it. Based on the reports these people's behaviour was criminal. Surely they didn't need to be told being a creepy stalker is not ok.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It was pointed out already that Google did in fact encourage looking at calendars.

      Haven't you heard that Google isn't exactly opposed to stalking?

      So to rephrase: that would be more like the CEO shitting on everybody's desk, everywhere in the world, daily, and then one morning complaining they found a small stain on their own desk.

      1. deyrey

        Looking at a colleagues calendar is one thing. Setting up rules to get alerts on what is in the calendar is stalking not looking at a colleagues calendar.

        Whether or not one thinks that Google hoovers up user data, it is hoovered by consent.

        Looking at the calendar is by consent as you have signed up the company code but stalking on that same calendar is not looking it is harvesting, their was no consent from the information given.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Google hoovers up user data, it is hoovered by consent

          You sure about that? I don't consent and, absent of running NoScript, don't have a choice about it..

        2. (m)any

          <i>Whether or not one thinks that Google hoovers up user data</i>

          Is there any doubt about Google's hoovering practices?

          <i>it is hoovered by consent</i>

          Is it though? Looks to me that Google is collecting a lot of data about people that they didn't consent to. DNS queries, Google Analytics, email messages sent to other users' Gmail accounts, etc etc. And those are just a few of the more obvious ones.

      2. jmch Silver badge

        " Google did in fact encourage looking at calendars"

        Looking at what other people are up to is one thing. Writing something to generate an alert when someone adds an appointment to their calendar is something else again.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google is Evil

    Film at 11pm.

    1. juvenihil

      Re: Google is Evil

      Here are googlers playing the evil part.

  8. James 47

    No doubt those people working on unwoke projects are now on a radical left-wing list somewhere now. They're the real victims here.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "unwoke" ?

      /me searches for the 'vomit' icon, settles for this one

  9. Moldskred

    "Despite being warned not to look at nor gather information on people not in their team or related to their job, however, the four individuals continued to harvest information about their targets, Google claimed."

    I thought harvesting information about people who don't want to be spied on was part of Google's culture and mission statement?

    1. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

      That only applies to the plebs

      Not Google's own people.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: That only applies to the plebs

        LMFTFY...

        Not by the little people at Google on Google's own people.

  10. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Alert

    Suppose the Targets were SMOKING ?

    They argued on Monday that a section of the corporation's code of conduct that says Google employees should “speak up if you see something that you think isn’t right” provided ample justification for tracking and scrutinizing their colleagues.

    Admittedly I am in Great Britain, but I have always assumed I could sit in a car outside fellow-workers' houses with high-powered binoculars and a parabolic listening dish and follow them in the spy-vehicle anytime they left.

  11. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

    Whistleblowing

    If I suspect someone is up to no good I am not going to say anything without proof to back it up - not because I don't want to get in trouble for 'telling tales', but because I want to be damn sure they are up to no good before I take it further. And, to a degree, to CMA if it turns out what they were doing was legitimate and just something someone wanted kept quiet for whatever reasons.

    On the other hand, don't forget that - despite what Dilbert suggests - some PHBs are more than capable of coming up with ways of screwing over their underlings... how sure are we that these four really were up to no good as against doing something their boss(es) didn't like, and "Does anyone have anything we can use to take [insert name here] down a peg or two?" sounds quite innocent... until [name] comes in and is dragged off for a meeting with HR and is never seen again...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they're learning...

    ... did they ever find and fire the employees who stripped references from and then "leaked" the DaMore memo...?

    Google has some really vile, creepy, malicious employees.

    Anon, cos I'm scared of Google's stalkers!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Culture at Google.

    Googler: Hey boss. Anything you need help with? I see theres a few projects I could help with.

    Boss: Sure son, take a look at my calendar and drop me an email.

    Googler: Cool, cool...will do. By the way, I hear you're involved in the new border control project, how's it going?

    Boss: *face drops to a dead serious glare, points at Googler* Fuck you, piss ant...get out of my fucking face before I fire you. *stands up, flips the table and spits in the Googlers face* you fucking waste of space. Fuck off.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Culture at Google.

      Fake news! I think you made this story up! It's clear that it actually happened in Soft Play Area 2, next to the rootop Bonsai Tree Cafe - and that the boss actually didn't flip the table but left on the slide towards Executive Massage Suite 1.

  14. holmegm Bronze badge

    Which is it?

    "They argued on Monday that a section of the corporation's code of conduct that says Google employees should “speak up if you see something that you think isn’t right” provided ample justification for tracking and scrutinizing their colleagues."

    Wait, so they deny all wrongdoing, but they *also* say that their wrong doing is right doing because stuff?

  15. Caff

    Seems to be their new tactic

    They hired a union busting company earlier in the year and have already pushed out the previous organisers

    https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/16/20695964/google-protest-leader-meredith-whittaker-leaves-company

    https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/7/18656490/google-walkout-organizer-quits-retaliation-claire-stapleton

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/20/technology/Google-union-consultant.html

    1. Donn Bly

      Re: Seems to be their new tactic

      Not a new tactic, but consider that while companies are known to do underhanded things to protect themselves from Unions, unions and union organizers are also known to engage in underhanded things. Even a legitimate company (or union) has reason to fear and protect themselves from such underhanded activities.

      Tracking and harassing other employees, which they admit to doing, is not only underhanded it would appear to be a violation of California law.

      The legitimate purposes of a union are two-fold: (1) to protect vulnerable workers through collective bargaining and (2) to protect a skilled trade and train new members in that skill.

      Does either of those apply to a union at Google? There is no apprentice program and the union isn't training and certifying anybody. Potential workers are trying extraordinarily hard to get in because they want to work for the company even though they already know that the working conditions aren't the best, but that in their mind the pay and other compensation override that.

      The people that Google hires are generally amongst the best at what they do. Those people have LOTS of options at multiple companies. They aren't common laborers with an interchangeable skillset., and they aren't vulnerable in a way that collective bargaining would generally help them.

  16. dnicholas Bronze badge

    Hypocrisy

    It's ok if the snarf gun is pointed at Joe Public though

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do I have to get a job at Google..

    ...to be excluded from the general "track everything" policy?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do I have to get a job at Google..

      What data of yours is super-useful anyway, out of interest?

      Let's talk financially. Credit card data, sure.

      Everything else... what's the big deal?

      And no, working at Google won't save you from their policies!

  18. Aussie Doc
    Windows

    Ah.

    "Baldrick, have you no idea what irony is?"

    "Yeah, it's like goldy and bronzy only it's made of iron."

  19. TimMaher Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    And the message to take away from this is...

    ...never, ever, work for Google.

  20. martinusher Silver badge

    Politisizing your job is a good way to lose it

    Google likes to have a public perception of an ethical employer but underneath all of that they're still an employer that's running a business. Trying to stir up problems because they've got a CBP contract and you don't agree with CBP policies isn't going to change company policy but it will cause you problems.

    CBP is an arm of the Federal government and its contracts are like any other government contracts. Legal. You may not agree with it but your choice is to either not work on it -- if possible (and I'm sure Google would accommodate you) or find another job.

    Whatever your opinions on immigration policy the people of CBP are charged with administering the law as it is. Its the same deal as the UK's Border Force. Every country has immigration law and people charged with enforcing it, even those countries that are currently major sources of emigrants -- where I live we get a lot of people from Mexico but I can't just decide one day to up stakes and move to Mexico, without a DNI I can't do anything except be a tourist.

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