Don't be evil: Googler sues Google over restrictive confidentiality policies

Martyn Williams

Google's longstanding motto was "Don't be evil." So has the company been meeting that goal?

Not according to one employee, who is suing the tech giant over its confidentiality practices. So what exactly is the employee alleging that Google did? Some not very nice stuff, to say the least. 

In IT Blogwatch, we get the lowdown on what we aren't supposed to know.

So what is going on? John Ribeiro has the background:

A product manager at Google...sued the company for...allegedly illegal confidentiality agreements, policies and practices that...prohibit employees from speaking even internally about illegal conduct and dangerous product defects.
The alleged policies...are said to violate California laws, restrict employees' right to speak, work or whistle-blow, and include restrictions on speaking to the government, attorneys or the press about wrongdoing at Google.

Anything else of note? Oh, there might be something. Reed Albergotti has the details:

The lawsuit alleges Google runs an internal “spying program” which relies on employees voluntarily reporting other employees who might have leaked information...It also alleges...a prohibition on employees writing “a novel about someone working at a tech company in Silicon Valley,” without Google signing off on the final draft.

What is the root of all these policies? Chance Miller is in the know:

Google...defines confidential information as “without limitation, any information in any form that relates to Google or Google’s business that is not generally known.”
On the other hand, Google’s Code of Conduct Policy states...confidential information consists of “everything at Google.” This policy restricts...employees from posting any sort of opinions about Google online...Additionally, it states that employees cannot converse with the press in any fashion.

And how does all this violate California law? Steven Parker fills us in:

The...policies...clash with California’s labor laws, which encourage openness and freedom for employees to discuss matters...If Google is found in violation, it could end up paying $3.8 billion, 75% of which would go to the state. The rest would be distributed to Google’s employees, who could end up getting $14,600 each.

Why this lawsuit now? Anmol Sachdeva has that info:

The short and sweet that Google doesn’t want its employees to talk about their work outside their offices. And John Doe is gunning for the...policies because he has possibly been wrongfully accused of violating one of them.

So what steps is Google taking in the midst of all this? Ethan Baron explains:

Google, since the...complaint was filed...amended the guidelines that were the subject of the complaint, the lawsuit said.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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