Google is threatening to fire employees in a crackdown on leaks about ‘need to know’ projects (GOOG, GOOGL)


Sundar Pichai

Google executives are clamping down on what information can and cannot be shared amongst internal teams, amid a wave of employee activism that has caused the tech giant to sideline numerous projects.
In an internal email sent to employees last week and obtained by Business Insider, Google’s Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker re-enforced the company’s restrictions for sharing “need-to-know” information.
Two current employees who spoke to Business Insider said Walker’s email appeared update Google’s policy, tightening the tech giant’s control over information being spread internally.
Both also said that some colleagues now fear that the company could arbitrarily retaliate against Googlers for something as simple as improper access to a document or potentially, reporting an ethically questionable project.
Below is Kent Walker’s full email to employees.
Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Google executives are clamping down on what information can and cannot be shared among employees, amid a wave of employee activism that has caused the tech giant to sideline numerous projects, including some that had the potential to be highly lucrative.

According to an internal email sent to employees last week and obtained by Business Insider, Google’s Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker re-enforced the company’s restrictions for sharing “need-to-know” information with colleagues and re-iterated that the consequences for misclassifying and mishandling such information could result in termination.

“It’s a violation of our policies to improperly access, copy, or share confidential or need-to-know information, whether or not it is explicitly marked,” Walker wrote in the email. “Doing so could subject you to disciplinary action. We have fired people who violated our data policies.”

According to Walker, the “need-to-know” definition extends to any information that is specific to an individual’s or team’s job, like notes and emails from a brainstorming session, project evaluations, and details of an organization’s financial or strategic plan. That would suggest that sharing — or even having access to — any information outside of an employee’s immediate role could be a fire able offense. News of Walker’s email was first reported by BuzzFeed on Tuesday.

Fears of retaliation

Two current employees who spoke to Business Insider said that some now feared that the company could arbitrarily retaliate against Googlers for something as simple as improper access to a document or potentially, reporting an ethically questionable project. Fears over retaliation are especially high at the tech giant as of late, after two women who helped spearhead the November Walkouts — Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton — said the company tried to demote and dramatically change their roles in response to their organizing efforts.

Although Walker characterized his email as a reminder of Google’s “longstanding data security policies,” both employees Business Insider spoke with said there appeared to be updates to the policy which tightened the tech giant’s control over information being spread internally.

Specifically, one employee pointed to the sharing of technical design documents — which are widely used by engineers to explain the concepts, motivations, and implementations of features they’ve created. Given the …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics

      

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