Google Escalates Internal Crackdown, Firing Four Employees

Google staffers engaged in a walkout last November to protest sexual harassment within the company (Photo: Mason Trinca, Getty)

An internal memo sent this afternoon states that four Google staffers have been fired for “clear and repeated violations of our data security policies.”

While a company spokesperson declined to comment on personnel matters specifically, she confirmed the authenticity of the memo, first obtained by Bloomberg.

The firings appear to be part of a broader effort to clamp down on internal dissent within the tech giant. Earlier this month, CEO Sundar Pichai abruptly cancelled the company’s weekly all-hands “TGIF” meetings due to what he characterised as “a coordinated effort to share our conversations outside of the company.” Google was revealed to have contracted famous union-busting firm IRI shortly after it was reported to have fired one staffer and put two others on administrative leave.

Those two employees—Rebecca Rivers and Laurence Berland—were the centrepiece of a 200-person rally on Google’s campus last week, where Rivers implied the company had wiped or otherwise corrupted her personal cell phone. Today, she tweeted that she’d been terminated. She and Berland were not able to be reached for comment. Both have been heavily involved in internal activism at the company, suggesting Google’s actions might be retaliatory. They denied any role in leaking information to the press.

Stranger still, the memo conflates issues of confidentiality with those of data access. “We’ve seen a recent increase in information being shared outside the company, including the names and details of our employees,” the email opens. It goes on to describe “an individual [who] subscribed to the calendars of a wide range of employees outside of their work group.” It’s unclear if such access to calendars runs counter to any specific company policy. The memo is reproduced below in full:

We’ve seen a recent increase in information being shared outside the company, including the names and details of our employees. Our teams are committed to investigating these issues, and today we’ve dismissed four employees for clear and repeated violations of our data security policies.

There’s been some misinformation circulating about this investigation, both internally and externally. We want to be clear that none of these individuals were fired for simply looking at documents or calendars during the ordinary course of their work.

To the contrary, our thorough investigation found the individuals were involved in systematic searches for other employees’ materials and work. This includes searching for, accessing, and distributing business information outside the scope of their jobs — repeating this conduct even after they were met with and reminded about our data security policies. This information, along with details of internal emails and inaccurate descriptions about Googlers’ work, was subsequently shared externally.

In one case, among other information they accessed and copied, an individual subscribed to the calendars of a wide range of employees outside of their work group. The individual set up notifications so that they received emails detailing the work and whereabouts of those employees, including personal matters such as 1:1s, medical appointments and family activities — all without those employees’ knowledge or consent. When the affected Googlers discovered this, many reported that they felt scared or unsafe, and requested to work from another location. Screenshots of some of their calendars, including their names and details, subsequently made their way outside the company.

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. This is not how Google’s open culture works or was ever intended to work. We expect every member of our community to abide by our data security policies.

Fortunately, these types of activities are rare. Thank you to everyone who does the right thing every day — doing amazing work, while inspiring and maintaining the trust of our users, partners, and each other.

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