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The article doesn't mention all of the alleged offenses regarding the lawsuit. There's definitely more than just a "spying program" here:

* Restrict the Googlers’ right to speak, right to work, and right to whistle-blow.

* Prohibit Googlers from speaking plainly – even internally – about illegal conduct or dangerous product defects, because such statements might one day be subject to discovery in litigation or sought by the government.

* Prohibit Googlers from telling a potential employer how much money they make, or what work they performed, when searching for a different job.

* Prohibit Googlers from using or disclosing all of the skills knowledge, acquaintances, and overall experience at Google when working for a new employer.

* Prohibit Googlers from speaking to the government, attorneys, or the press about wrongdoing at Google.

* The policies even prohibit Googlers from speaking to their spouse or friends about whether they think their boss could do a better job.

There were alleged training practices, policies, and documents outlining these offenses and they are written up pretty plainly in the suit itself[1]. Makes for better, more detailed reading, than this Engadget piece.

[1] - http://www.bakerlp.com/Google-Blackout-Case/2016-12-19-PAGA-...

"Plaintiff brings this suit as a “Doe” because Brian Katz, Google’s Director of Global Investigations, Intelligen ce & Protective Services, falsel y informed approximately 65,000 Googlers that Plaintiff was terminated for “leaking” certain information to the press. In fact, Plaintiff did not leak the identi fied information to the press an d Katz knew he did not. Rather, Katz and Google used Plaintiff as a very public sc apegoat to ensure that other Googlers continued to comply with Google’s unlawfu l confidentiality policies. "

According to B.Katz LinkedIn biography, he was a Special Agent and is using gov. intel grunt tactics on Google employees, much like special agents would when Obama/etc... cracked down on whistle blowers.

Looks like a revolving door hire, and if the suit is correct, then it has to cost Google a huge fine.

What is GOogle hiding they want a strong-arming Security Service Agent comfortable with making illegal threats running their grunt task force?

That's quite the job title. Can someone elucidate what duties come with it?

At large companies like MS, Google, or FB you can roughly divide security into "infosec" and physical security. The latter org will run everything from the door guards and video/badge infra to executive protection services and employee investigations. I am guessing that Mr. Katz runs this org at Google.

Here's at least one of the job duties for Katz: https://www.rt.com/usa/google-bartender-phone-barton-523/

Thanks for sharing.

Sound like a total dick. Glad this wasn't a bar in Florida where you can conceal carry. Dude comes to some establishment and threatens employees and owner with criminal prosecution and filing criminal charges, then when they want to return the phone to the police, he would rather have it returned to them...

What a dick.

You shouldn't have been downvoted for that comment. According to the Wired article that broke the story (which RT apparently cut-and-pasted from without proper attribution):


this guy apparently was being an all-out, stereotypical SV dickhead, blatantly threatening a mere bartender (Barton) with criminal charges ("like I was in any trouble", as Barton says) -- just so he could save his own ass back at the Googleplex.

Here he is describing his job. Makes for ironic reading in context of this lawsuit:


Here is what someone with that job title would do at Hooli https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snBl7KE0bSs

That's interesting, a clause in my contract (pulled up the PDF just now; dated prior to the suit in question) explicitly states that the confidentiality agreement does _not_ apply to my ability to discuss "terms, wages, and working conditions of employment, as protected by applicable law".

That certainly contradicts several of those points.

The suit goes into much more than just a confidentiality agreement. It doesn't allege that only the agreement is the source for those points.

The evidence and facts brought up are:

1) A quote from his offer letter.

2) The confidentiality agreement.

3) A Code of Conduct policy for "internal purposes only."

4) Data Classification Guidelines.

6) Employee Communication Policy.

7) Training programs including one called "You Said What?"

8) "Prepare to leave Google" policy.

9) "Exit Certification" note upon termination.

10) A "Global Investigations Team" led by Brian Katz.

11) "Stopleaks."

12) Quotes from all hands meetings.

13) Alleged amendment of a policy in response to his letter to Labor Workforce and Development Agency violations.

Well, in particular, that one line I cited from the confidentiality agreement makes me suspicious of claimed Legal Violations #6-8 (regarding disclosure of wages).

And certainly claimed Legal Violation #2 also falls flat when you consider that these are trade secrets protected by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and leaking trade secrets is illegal.

#3 and #4 is contradicted by the presence of the Protected Activity section in the same confidentiality agreement, which permit such activity.

I'm not about to comb through supporting documents just to disprove the rest of the claims; we have lawyers whose job is to do that. But since I can relatively easily find contradictions between what I have readily available and what the lawsuit is asserting, I have doubts that the underlying lawsuit really holds much weight.

14) Literally getting fired for discussing terms, wages, and working conditions of employment

15) Lawyers telling employees to STFU on discussion threads about legal problems in the news

Who got fired for that?

We have people who started a spreadsheet where googlers can post their salary/total comp and they are still working at google.

The former Googler who started that spreadsheet faced retaliation from management for that spreadsheet, actually.

"Former Google employee Erica Baker revealed in a flurry of messages on Twitter Friday that she faced retaliation from management after compiling a spreadsheet of employee salaries."


That was one side of the story - presumably there is another side of the story. Since she left, there is another spreadsheet going around, and the maintainers are all still working at google AFAIK

John Doe. See [0] and the article that it links to.

Try posting that spreadsheet on the internet and see what happens.

[0] https://www.theinformation.com/employee-lawsuit-accuses-goog...

This is discussed near the end of the document under the "Google’s Ineffective “Savings” Provisions" header.

I'm sure every hire at Google signs exactly the same contract, since that totally makes sense.

A lot of these sound familiar to the Snapchat story from yesterday. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13212920

> * Prohibit Googlers from speaking to the government

I have a hard time believing Google lawyers would put something like this in writing for employees to sign...

Some of those are just not justiciable "using or disclosing all of the skills knowledge, acquaintances, and overall experience at Google when working for a new employer." is an obvious WTF

Access denied for me. Did anybody save the PDF?

When they write 'Googlers' in the complaint...it just seems silly. Why not 'Google employees'?

Most of those bullet points seem completely reasonable.

Google instructs employees in its training programs to do the following: “Don’t send an e-mail that says ‘I think we broke the law’ or ‘I think we violated this contract.’”

Yeah, that should be common sense, but there might be some talented yet socially-dumb engineers who need to be explicitly told that. Loose lips sink ships!

The only thing I find objectionable is the arbitration clause in the employment contract. That should be made illegal.

The whole point of ethics is to report ‘I think we broke the law’ or ‘I think we violated this contract.’ to your manager (maybe more, depending on the case) and for your own good (protection from prosecution) you should leave papertrails (emails for instance) that you did so.

How is it acceptable for a company to encourage employees to hide bad (or illegal) behavior ?

I think it's more people speculating about another team or project.

For example "I bet we'll get boatloads of patent disputes from Samsung if we get the next Nexus phone made by LG", said by someone on the Google search team who is just speculating based on public news reports.

Later in court, Samsung could use that as evidence that someone in the company had knowledge of violating patents (which increases damages 3x).

For a more concrete example, a Google engineer said that they should license Java for Android in an email (without having any sort of legal background on whether it was necessary), and this got dragged into court as evidence in the Oracle API copyright case.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/20/oracle-go...

Yes, this!

Typically, the advice given in such contexts is to disclose concerns to your lawyer in the context of seeking legal advice. In the US (though this differs in some other countries) this makes it "attorney-client privileged" and thus protected from most kinds of legal discovery.

So the company is not saying, "Don't raise concerns about illegality." They're saying, "Don't raise them to your manager, but instead to the legal team."

Large companies tend to set up internal processes for such complaints to ensure that they go to the right people (i.e. your manager is probably not the right person anyway) and that they remain legally privileged when possible.

Based on the news reports (and not the content of the suit), it seems to me the filer is not aware of what is common (and frankly not worrisome) behavior at large companies. People get fired for leaking product details; legal discussions should happen with lawyers; companies commonly have contracts prohibiting discussion of wages but those contracts are usually unenforceable because in the US labor relations regulations actually protect such actions from retribution.

I'm curious about one aspect of U.S. law:

If an employee sees a violation of criminal law, does reporting it to his supervisor discharge any additional legal obligation to report it to law enforcement?

There is generally no legal obligation to report a violation of criminal law in most US jurisdictions. There are generally special cases for things like teachers and doctors to report child abuse, for example, but I can't think of any reason an employee would be legally obligated to report an employer's criminal activity.

> Loose lips sink ships!

Loose lips also sink Axis ships.

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