Google has laid down the law that employees can be severely punished for accessing internal information without permission.
Because employees have leaked information over ethical concerns and staged sit-ins and walkouts, the company plans to crack down. Buzzfeed News reported May 14, that Anonymous whistleblowers claimed Google’s top legal executive Kent Walker sent a company-wide email stating that accessing certain documents without permission could result in termination.
Google once prided itself as having a reputation for openness and formerly allowed employees to access a wide variety of documents and source code regardless of whether it was relevant to their work. In the wake of scandals and controversies including creating Chinese censorship search engine Dragonfly and working with the US military, Google intends to put limits on their employees.
One employee spoke to BuzzFeed on condition of anonymity, saying that the email “could very easily be read as an attempt to scare anyone who might be a whistleblower or organizer.” The same employee added that organizing in response to Google’s various ethical scandals “would have been much more difficult if these policies had been in place.”
The employee indicated that Walker’s email made them “more convinced than ever that organizing ourselves as workers is essential, both for our own protection and to make Google the kind of company that we want to work for.” He or she lamented Google’s “clear retreat from the culture of internal openness and transparency which we used to be proud of.”
This is part of a company wide effort to end leaks and scandals. BuzzFeed had already reported Google’s weekly staff meeting, known as TGIF, was no longer being recorded or made public to outside sources. The executives hosts of TGIF aren’t even taking live questions from their employees anymore.
Perhaps they’re trying to cut down on embarrassments like the leak of Google executives openly mourning at their TGIF meeting after Trump’s 2016 victory. Or it could be attempt to prevent more scandals and controversies — many of which have made the company vulnerable to accusations of bias (and possible legislation).
In September 2018, a leaked Google employee’s email revealed efforts to boost the Latino votes for Hillary Clinton. That leaked memo showed that Eliana Murillo, Google’s head of multicultural marketing, claimed to have worked with organizations to mobilize Latino votes “in key states” as well as paid for rides to the polls. This was used against Google when Sundar Pichai testified before Congress, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) scorched him for it.