Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Google Fires Four Workers, Including Staffer Tied to Protest (bloomberg.com)
397 points by phissk 64 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 353 comments



>> 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.

Yikes - this seems to go beyond labor organizing within the company.


I think this is probably just a deliberate and horrendous mis-representation. I don't know how Google's internal systems work and would love someone who works there to comment further. However, in the public Google calendar I can set up alerts for all the meetings someone else has (useful for secretaries etc.). And so if you just sign up for those alerts you're going to get:

> 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.

Except that that is how Google has designed its calendar system. If you put your medical appointments into your calendar without marking them private then yes, they're going to be public.

So basically, Google seems to have managed to take a feature in its own Calendar App, and the default behaviour of meetings on Google and dressed it up like stalking.


The privilege to take an action is not a justification of the action.

Google designed their calendar this way to support work. It doesn’t sound like these people were using resources for work purposes. That’s almost certainly a violation of the work rules. Pushing blame on the employee being tracked is ridiculous.

Companies are not democracies, and unless you are an executive with a contract or are in a collective bargaining agreement, you serve at the pleasure of your management. If you’re irritating your management for reasons and want to stick around, you need to work in the rules.


The fact that screenshots of those calendars were later found outside the company, helps to demonstrate intent here.

Also, it might be legal for me to follow a person around in public and film them, but doing that is still incredibly creepy and indicative of mal intent.


At some point those behaviors cross the line into stalking. I don't know where exactly law enforcement and prosecutors draw that line, but I'd prefer to get them involved sooner rather than later.


Not really.

Different groups may follow you. PI trying to determine marriage issues, health issues for insurance reasons, etc

If you are famous or have something to add to the news cycle reporters or people trying to sell your picture may follow you around.

Most people post where they have been publically to create their personal brand that they share with others.

These have no mal intent. The overused word creepy is subjective.. and doesn't make it wrong. I know someone who feels creepy going outside at night. We shouldn't morally make a judgement for everyone based on someone's feelings. I don't think going outside is creepy.


> PI trying to determine marriage issues, health issues for insurance reasons, etc

From my perspective, either of those have ill intent towards me.


Sure - but maybe you have ill intent towards others (filing dubious claims, an affair without spousal approval, etc.) and this is to see it happen. It is no different than police doing a stakeout - it is just a private citizen than a public defender.


You can look at it as decreased insurance rates.

If insurance companies could not investigate your insurance would cost 10 times as much.

The marriage investigation is a mixed bag. If you are running a drug running operation I should get the kids and you need some proof to make that claim.


> Pushing blame on the employee being tracked is ridiculous.

I’ve never worked at Google, so while I can’t say for certain, I doubt the calendar has a “notify me about the juicy bits” checkbox. It’s certainly useful for me to know when my manager will be in the office or in some meeting, and if my manager marks the meeting “private,” I can know that he won’t be available at a particular time even if I don’t know what he’ll be busy doing.

If he finds it creepy that I know when he’ll be at the dentist, or be in a 1:1 with his boss, he needs to make sure the appointment is marked as private; I can’t do anything about it.

So, yes, I believe in this case, it makes sense to blame the people being tracked for publicity posting information that they didn’t want others to know.


From the article: > an individual subscribed to the calendars of a wide range of employees outside of their work group.

Following your manager's calendar makes sense. Doing the same for people outside of your group is suspicious imo, unless you're working with that team/person.


How plausible is it that they were following people outside their group for union reasons, e.g. to call them for a union meeting, rather than anything more nefarious?


That is ok usage, but in the discussed case we already know that people followed were later doxed not called to discuss unions. Big difference


Also, we know that the people being tracked complained that they felt unsafe.


While they were being tracked or only once the case was being built and the tracking was revealed?

Who are these people? Managers? Would the union organisers have been tracking calendars to find times the managers are not walking the aisles so the unionists could talk to the staff about unionising?

In such a circumstance I imagine I as a hypothetical manager being coerced into a union-busting exercise could arrange to feel threatened by this calendar-monitoring behaviour.

As for the copies outside the office: we want to bring the union lawyers and membership folks around to talk about joining the union, here’s the manager’s schedule for the next week.

Believe nothing of what you read and only half of what you see.

It is every aggrieved party’s interest to claim they thought the world was going to end, because the only negotiating direction is away from that extreme.


I agree that in this case, the person subscribed to calendars for an arguably shady purpose, or at least a not work-related purpose. But I find it rich that Google created the feature, and then tried to describe it in a creepy way, especially with how Google approaches privacy for their users (roughly, data the user hands to Google is fair game).


The issue here is not about the feature or existing possibility here. The issue is about people being followed and then they were doxed. This is creating a hostile workplace. Google makes investigation, gives out warnings, bad behavior continues, result is inevitable

Unionizing and protest organizing is just a background noise at this point


I manage my work calendar with an eye towards effective collaboration. Sometimes people have a legitimate need to know what I'm doing, to understand e.g. whether I can respond to chat messages or whether I will accept an emergency interruption. I don't and shouldn't have to plan against hostile actors trying to stalk me.


You may be obligated to by Law, trade secrets or just plain professionalism. As employee one need to both protect oneself and company.


Which is also the case of pretty much any other enterprise calendaring system, like office 365, or heck, even <shudder> lotus notes...


I tend to agree, and it's also worth pointing out that calendars in O365 work similarly.

We have them configured to be public by default because it makes it much easier to book meetings, particularly when you need to find a slot that works for several people.

With that being said it does assume that you have the common-sense to make appointments that should be private, private. I tend to do this for any personal matters, along with any meetings that involve discussing sensitive work-related matters.

(I also use private appointments to ensure I get a lunch break if a day is looking particularly full of meetings. If I don't eat something at lunchtime I tend to be bad-tempered in the afternoon, which doesn't really help anyone.)

Worth pointing out that we've clearly communicated that calendars are public by default, which hopefully helps people to know they need to make appointments explicitly private if that's what they want.


Yes, Google uses Google Calendar internally.

Signing up for email alerts about somebody else's calendar is definitely weird. But the information you'd get is the same as someone would get if they checked your calendar manually, which is an expected and normal part of Google's culture.


No, it is more like checking it manually every single day. ...which is would be akin to following someone in public and filming them. Technically, it's all in public, but it is no less likely to make people feel stalked and unsafe.

The underlying part here is that these employees were using the notion of "unions" to organize _politically_.

...and their willingness to act against fellow employees and leak company documents demonstrates just how dirty they would have become had they been allowed to continue.

Personally, I don't think they cared at all about worker rights beyond their desire to advocate their politics.


Checking an employee’s public internal calendar every day, the bastards. /s

Why were they using company resources for personal meetings?


> Why were they using company resources for personal meetings?

Probably because it represents time that are unavailable for work and, in many cases, because their are people at work (including their boss) entitled to know the reason, and who probably established that as the workflow for sharing the information.


Yeah, and that's why you put full details in your personal calendar and into the work one "Doctor's appointment" or something without expanding on that any further.


If I have a doctor's appointment in the middle of the day, I might add it to my personal calendar with full details, but I still need to add an entry to my work calendar to show I'll be out of the office, possibly with a generic title like "Medical Appt".


I wouldn't do that personally. It would say "Busy" and nothing else - that is all the company needs to know.


> Why were they using company resources for personal meetings?

So that coworkers don't schedule you for meetings during your doctor appointments.


Add blockers on your calendar for that time.


They have only announced circumstantial evidence that the so-called "stalking" was related to the leak.

Remember, the so-called stalking was looking at information that the owner chose to share with the company and didn't mark the "private" flag on (which is available as a default to apply to all meetings).


It’s normal in a lot of companies. I typically have my bosses and my team lead’s calendar up throughout the day. Helps to fill in the gaps and get a feel for questions I’ll ask later


A time ago I used to not put anything onto my work calender because "it didn't matter" and "no one cared". Meeting at 2pm? That's a postit note and that was good enough for me.

Somewhere along the line, people started scheduling me for events in conflict with other events. Why? My online visible calender was free and clear into eternity so obviously I have nothing going on at 2pm. Explaining not being able to be in three places at once got old fast.

So now I have an eye toward using the calendar "defensively". Here's when I usually come in, here's when I usually clock out, here's when I usually take lunch, here's that weekly meeting I have to attend for someone else's giggles, here's when I'm helping Jimmy with this thing, here's when Samantha is helping me with the other thing. You want a meeting? Now the calendar begins a negotiation.

I may or may not like it, but the tipping point has come and gone for me.


If you are periodically checking coworkers manually and then said coworkers got doxed externally you would be in the same troubles with the company for creating hostile workplace


> However, in the public Google calendar I can set up alerts for all the meetings someone else has (useful for secretaries etc.).

The fact that you can do it doesn't mean it is proper for you to do it other than as reasonable for legitimate job duties.

There is no system in place physically preventing me from doing lots of illegitimate things in my workplace, but that doesn't mean that if I do them I get a free pass merely because it was possible to do them.


So basically, Google seems to have managed to take a feature in its own Calendar App, and the default behaviour of meetings on Google and dressed it up like stalking.

A window on your friend’s house can be used to peek in to see if they’re home when you’ve popped by to visit.

It can also be used to stare into all day to monitor what someone you don’t know is doing.

What the terminated employees are accused of doing is a lot more like the second example.


Also, in this example, Google would be the company paying users to set up cameras fixated on their windows, watching 24/7, for purposes of serving more relevant flyers in their mailboxes.


Yes, and users voluntarily agree for said “big brother watching you” dystopia to get free mailbox, maps app and free photos backups

Nobody signed up for their coworkers monitoring your calendar and then you find you beign doxed externally. Company investigated, gave out warnings, and yet the hostile behavior continued and here is the result


Windows don't have privacy switches (blinds don't count, for obvious reason), and co-workers aren't "someone you don't know", and calendars are business planes not personal activities or personal bodies.


if it's useful for secretaries it doesn't mean that it should be used by someone else who doesn't need that information. This behaviour is dodgy and I wouldn't want to work with a colleague who does this.


[flagged]


I hope those that get fired sue for wrongful termination to see if Google really did interfere purposely with the labor organizers, or if the organizer maliciously acted and their termination was justified.


Don't be a sucker. This is very standard union-busting behavior: demonize the organizers and make it seem like their organizing behavior is egregious.


Google isn't some dangerous smelting factory of low paid workers.

These people were using the notion of unions to further their desire to push their POLITICS. They didnt care about safety or pay. They wanted to force the company to stop working with the US government on various contracts.


Yeah, why would Googlers ever be concerned about their safety or pay? It’s not like the company ever fixed wages or paid out millions to an exec accused of sexually assaulting an employee. Oh wait...


Wage fixing was crap, mostly driven by Steve Jobs and stopped when it was discovered/Jobs died. Unionization was not required to solve that, just enforcing existing laws. Isn't it even the opposite - unions are at heart wage fixing cartels, but which claim to be doing it for the benefits of "the workers" against "management". An artificial and essentially Marxist distinction, especially at a place like Google where so many employees have aspects of management responsibility e.g. any tech lead, and where individual contributors are frequently paid more than their managers.

As for Andy Rubin, you seem to have assumed that accusation is the same as guilt. But Rubin was being accused by a former girlfriend he dumped: hardly a neutral party. You never heard his side of the story, but I'll give you a hint: he denied it. A senior exec being accused of some sort of sexual misbehaviour happens every day, women know these accusations are frequently treated as true-by-default without anyone caring about the details and use it. Just look at the FBI's own stats on false rape claims as proven by DNA tests. False accusations by women against men with regards to sex crimes is way more common than for any other kind of crime, like an order of magnitude more common. You can't make any assumptions Google or Rubin did anything wrong here, none of us have enough information.

But finally, the complainants weren't limiting themselves to wage fixing that for many predated their employment, or Andy Rubin's bedroom habits. They're moaning about enforcement of immigration laws. They know they can't convince the general public to vote for totally open borders because it's an extreme policy that would create massive problems, as is abolition of the Department of Defence. So they've decided to try and get what they want by pressuring firms that act as component suppliers. Organising to make democratically chosen policies unimplementable is not what union protections were meant to be about.


This comment is a perfect example of how reactionary the PMC can become, I'm putting this in my cringe compilation.


> These people were using the notion of unions to further their desire to push their POLITICS. They didnt care about safety or pay.

Not true, the reason they where trying to organise a union was because they did not feel safe with their employer spying on them [1].

Ironicly they where fired because other employees did not feel safe being spied on. So google obviously recognising that spying on employees is a legitimate safety concern.

[1] https://time.com/5709653/google-employee-spy-tool/


No employee has any privacy from the company on the Corporate owned computer and network


In Germany there absolutely is this expectation.

https://www.hldataprotection.com/2017/08/articles/internatio...

GDPR also applies to the employer and employee. You can’t log without consent, and „we might monitor stuff“ in your contract won’t hold up in court in Europe if you start invasively logging.


Do you know of any court case testing this?

My contract with a German company, specifically had clauses saying that anything on their systems is something that can inspect and/or look at.

We aren't talking a small company here, but one with multiple large sites; which means multiple large workers councils ( basically a union for a specific company location ).

Remember hiring in Germany has to be approved by a Worker's Council and the company has to pay for the council to receive independent legal advice as well.


The one I know is this: http://juris.bundesarbeitsgericht.de/cgi-bin/rechtsprechung/...

From the GDPR training I did for working as a software engineer in DE, this is all OK as long as its legitimately required for compliance, explicitly disclosed to the full requirements of BDSG/GDPR and not used for anything other than the stated reasons.

This is a huge contrast to the US where it would likely be completely legal to look at this kind of monitoring and then fire someone under at-will employment law for reading too much news.ycombinator.


Well Google is a US Company, and this story is about US Employees so the Laws of the US apply here.


Google has major offices in London, Munich and Zürich where this does apply


... in your country maybe :-)


Safety and pay aren't the only benchmarks which employers should be required to comply with to a certain minimum degree.


Google has one of the best workspace conditions out there though


>When the affected Googlers discovered this, many reported that they felt scared or unsafe

Gee I wonder if there is any self-reflection that they work for a company whose primary purpose is to gather this information about everyone...yet when its their information in the hands of employees working for their own company they feel "scared or unsafe".


I'd tend to trust the evil corporations take much more than the individual, because google is subject to much more scrutiny and much more liability. Lying and retaliating by big companies tends to be rare because it can affect the bottom line much, much more than a bit of internal dissent.

Additionally they're publicly traded so statements on the matter that could be construed as market-relevant must not be false or the SEC starts to take a hard look.


> google is subject to much more scrutiny and much more liability.

Not really if they do something wrong they will get a fine of tens of millions but thats a tiny percentage of their profit, its an operating cost not a punishment.

> Lying and retaliating by big companies tends to be rare because it can affect the bottom line much, much more than a bit of internal dissent.

Not really again because they have so much money if anything affects their bottom line they create a pr campaign to change public opinion, its super effective even for something thats very easy to prove is dangerous like smoking.


>Not really if they do something wrong they will get a fine of tens of millions but thats a tiny percentage of their profit, its an operating cost not a punishment.

And lying gains them a benefit in excess of tens of millions?

It's all too easy as a large company to use non-specific (and SEC-approved) language to dismiss the claims: "At Google we have a non-retaliation policy and take all such concerns seriously. We are investigating these claims and will cooperate...."

When instead they go out of their way to provide a specific response and claim to have evidence to back it up-- publicly and to the media-- it is thus very credible; they have much to lose if they are lying and very little to gain.

On the flip side, the terminated users have zero incentive not to lie if it benefits them; there are no laws against doing so, and there is much to gain in terms of reputation and potential settlements.

Lets keep in mind as well that SEC sanctions can be much more significant than simply a fine. Musk made a tweet and was forced to step down. You think Google's going to take action that could piss off both labor boards AND the SEC AND any courts that end up handling potential litigation?


This is scary that you can be punished for using a system, not hacking but just using it.

I don't want to give too much details but my company allow you to subscribe to people's PTO calendar. By default, you can see your teammates but you can search other people and add their calendar to your dashboard.

To me it seemed like a logical thing to do to add all those people who I interact with to my dashboard. Also I added some of my friends and some higher ups. Just to help me with planning my vacations and sure a bit of curiosity.

Now I wonder if my company can use this against me.


> This is scary that you can be punished for using a system, not hacking but just using it.

This is a revisionist explanation.

> Screenshots of some of their calendars, including their names and details, subsequently made their way outside the company.

They disclosed other people's internal calendars publicly. That's a clear violation of employer policy and not intended employer use.


If only I could fire Google for the same thing.


A public calendar is public. No different than how my Outlook calendar is setup organizationally. If you want items to be private, mark them as private. Otherwise if someone setup a blanket alert in my calendar, they’ll get alerted for what I want made public.


I suspect the difference here is that Google alleges thar screenshots of the calendar were taken and distributed outside the company. Viewing a shared calendar that happens to include private events that haven’t been marked private is one thing, but sharing screenshots of the same seems to be something different.


Exactly, this looks like the preparation for the witch hunt of the affected people.


google is trying to distract from the fact that they are firing people for trying to organize and it's working.


That calendar system doesn't force the owner of the calendar to confirm whenever someone subscribes to their schedule?


This sounds incredibly creepy without actually knowing how Google's internal mail system works. I will say, this is one reason I never put personal information on work calendars, etc. I block off time, but I don't use a descriptive reason because my manager knows what I'll be doing during that time.


It's very close to normal GSuite Gmail and calendar.

https://gsuite.google.com/

Anything you can do with that is how our internal Gmail and calendar works. With lots of use of Groups.

https://groups.google.com/


How can one even be able and allowed to do this? It smacks of gross incompetence on Google's part.


Back in the day while I was at Google, you could look at anyone else's calendar. I thought this level of transparency was really nice. It also was super convenient when trying to schedule a multi-party meeting with people in different offices and time zones. What else are you going to do, and endless email thread asking for availability and doing manual matching?

Just don't put your personal activities in your work calendar, I guess? Whenever I had a personal appointment (e.g. doctor), I'd just book a block of "Busy" or "Gabriel OOO" in my work calendar.


I also don't think the openness on the calendar is the issue, more the stalking part. Just like how seeing where people go on the streets is natural, but sneaking behind someone everyday up to their house becomes something else altogether.


It's really neither. It's the part where information on someone else's calendar was disseminated to an external third party.


That is not what the note said. It said that screenshots made their way outside the company.

I would associate that with an email account that wasn't the work account, a printed page that was taken off-premises, a non-work cloud-hosted storage service, or to a computer that wasn't a work computer. It does not say that the place the information was sent to was any third party.

It could turn out that the information was sent to a third party, but that has not (yet) been claimed.


Ah, I follow. "Outside the company" could mean "cold storage."


Yup! I assume that at this point general counsel is involved in everything Google says publicly; it's then worth nitpicking at the exact details of what has or has not been admitted, because legal folk definitely have!


There are 2 points here 1. The visibility of the activity. I have no experience with google calendar at this level but the normal from my perspective would be that only free/busy information is by default available. If the company wants every info to be available then it might be that the employees were not adequately informed about this in order either to not enter private info in their calendar or mark them explicitly as private

2. The fact that this kind of information made it outside of the company. I believe this is the consequence of making such info available to all and in a company with so many thousand employees like it or not there are some bad apples that will take advantage of everything


I'm using Google calendar at work, and I guess the version Google uses internally is not that different.

You can decide whether everyone can see the details or whether they just see "busy" everywhere.

I think it's good to see the title, for example if I have a meeting about the feature Foobar and a coworker sees that, he might want to reach out to say he's got some insight about it.


A normal Outlook setup is that you can see people's availability in their calendars but you can only see the details for your immediate team or if people have specifically enabled it.

There is no reason to have your full calendar visible by all by default.


In a work context, which is what G Suite is meant for, there's no reason not to have it public.

Also, "public" here means only the time & title, not detailed description, participants, attachments etc. You can easily set individual events to private, or default everything to private if you wish.


why would you need to see the meeting topic? All you should be able to see is availability.


Because in Google's conceptualization, organization is horizontal and extremely employee-driven.

It's ultimately the individual employee that knows whether or not a meeting is relevant to them. And they can only know that if they have information on the meeting.


So someone can just up and invite themselves to a meeting I set up and did not invite them to?

Sounds like an entirely toxic environment.


Not really. The principle in play is "We're all adults; don't be a dick."

Proper etiquette would be to ping the meeting organizer and ask if they mind if you sit in. If they don't, no problem. If they do, you work something out relevant to the reason you wanted to sit in. But one can't even start that conversation without knowledge of relevant meeting topics.

The fact I know what meetings my coworkers are having doesn't imply I should be crashing them any more than the fact I can see when my coworkers are at their desks implies I should be continuously bothering them.


Because that’s the domain-wide setting that Google configured for all of its employees accounts.


There is no reason to show the title to all by default. Only 'free', 'busy', 'away', etc is enough, which is standard in Outlook.


"Hey Steve, I noticed you're meeting with Bob and Janet tomorrow on foo. I'm working on foo-sec and could use more details on foo; mind if I sit in?"

Google's corporate culture is to make it as easy as possible to have that happen.


I think the GP is referring to personal calendars, not work calendars.


I'd blame the user. Speculation: when you add an event you can choose whether you add it to the work or to the personal calendar and those people chose to add it to the work calendar, which is public so others in Google can see when that person is busy, which in turn is useful to schedule meetings, etc


> Back in the day while I was at Google, you could look at anyone else's calendar

Maybe that is why google screws up its data security outside too. Such things shouldnt be allowed in the first place.

Outlook is great comparing to this.


You should be prohibited from viewing anyone else's calendar? It's a pretty core functionality to scheduling meetings. They obviously use Google Calendar internally, where event details can be controlled with privacy settings. That said, when you're stalking someone, it's pretty easy to infer if it's an unlabelled block of time is for a 1:1, doctor's appointment, friend visiting for lunch, whatever.

Yeah, the policy should be "employees are not allowed to stalk other employees". Sounds like that's what the policy actually was; I don't see any incompetency.


I think the part I’m not getting is why event details would be open by default in a work environment.

If you need to schedule around someone’s times, all you need to know is if they’re busy or free. At my office this is what is displayed if you look at others’ calendars, but not details unless you’ve been invited yourself.


You have these options as an admin when using GSuite:

> No sharing — Calendars aren't shared unless users share their own calendars. Note: If you choose No sharing, your mobile app users can't use the Find a time feature. > Only free/busy information (hide event details)—Only free/busy information displays. >Share all information — All information is public unless users change their own settings. Users can also make individual events private.

Then you can manually override these settings as a user.


This is just a default setting, though. Often it's useful to know what meetings are occurring so you can attend or contribute info, and it's certainly useful to know who's booked a room so you can swap or shift them to video conference if you need the room more.


Because Google is heavily employee-driven and trusts individual employees to determine what's relevant to solving the problems at hand.

My teammates calendar topics are visible to me so that I can notice if they're getting pulled into meetings on topics that I should be meeting with them also. My boss's calendar topics are visible to me so that I'm empowered to ballpark the relevance of my project in context of other things my boss is managing (and so I can notice if my boss is working on something that should be relevant to my project that nobody has noticed is relevant yet).


You shouldn't be able to see exact activity with details, no reason for that. Just availability info. Another point is, how stupid is somebody when they put their personal activities in their work calendar. Google enabled this, and I am pretty sure there isn't a part in the original contract that prohibits that.

At our 80k multinational mega corp, we don't see each other's calendars, and we do those meetings with staff around whole globe. No real issues with this.

All this looks very much like google trying to paint leavers in as bad light as possible. This vengeful approach is very unprofessional and casts bad light on google and individual managers involved.


> You shouldn't be able to see exact activity with details, no reason for that. Another point is, how stupid is somebody when they put their personal activities in their work calendar.

But is there a compelling reason not to have it? Can you think of any circumstances where having access to someone's event details would make scheduling and communication with them easier? I agree with your second point, of course, and while I have never worked at google I'm pretty confident nobody would bat an eye if you just blocked the equivalent time slot with "personal".

But this person didn't do that, and they were open about some of their personal information on their calendar. Probably because they didn't expect one of their coworkers to be a stalker. I guess that was naivety on their part, but this is victim blaming.


>You shouldn't be able to see exact activity with details, no reason for that.

If I urgently need to meet with someone today and I see they've blocked off the whole afternoon for a 4-hour meeting, it could make a big difference if the 4-hour meeting in question is "Critical presentation to the CEO" or "Weekly HR thing that HR spams everyone with but nobody attends and doesn't matter anyway"


Things like these auto sort themselves out - if the meeting is ""Weekly HR thing that HR spams everyone with but nobody attends and doesn't matter anyway", then nobody that has actual work to do attends, and they don't accept the meeting into their calendars. Its not like somebody would count attendance on those.

Critical stuff shouldn't get a reaction like "gee, he has something in his calendar, well we just skip this 10 mil deal because disturbing him is a no-no and he would be mean to us". Critical stuff is critical, take people out of their meetings, life is about priorities.

But I understand the appeal to control freaks out there, everything is plain and visible (or not, depends how you set it up)


> If I urgently need to meet with someone today and I see they've blocked off the whole afternoon for a 4-hour meeting, it could make a big difference if the 4-hour meeting in question is "Critical presentation to the CEO" or "Weekly HR thing that HR spams everyone with but nobody attends and doesn't matter anyway"

Unless they are your subordinate, so that you are empowered to judge and direct their priorities, it doesn't. Nothing prevents you from sending them a message (or meeting request) acknowledging that you know they have som thing scheduled but you have an urgent need (and explaining the need) and allowing them to make a decision, or Maki g a similar request of their superior if organizationally appropriate. Your urgent need doesn't transform you into their boss.


Google has a very open culture, e.g. all documents/calendars/... are open to anyone by default. If it's private, you'll need to mark it as private and then nobody has access.


This is how GSuite works, no? I can subscribe to the calendar of anyone in my company. You have to change the visibility to Private to stop it showing the content to other people in the org, and even then it just shows up as "busy".


I leave my room open and then say- people were watching me not just doing my work but also taking shower and sleeping - that's disingenuous.

The calendar doesn't distinguish between medical work or a meeting with union Busters. Google is deliberately muddying waters. Slimy


>> Screenshots of some of their calendars, including their names and details, subsequently made their way outside the company.

To extend your analogy, the screenshots would be someone taking photos of you in the shower or sleeping, and distributing them. While they might not have been able to avoid glacing in your open door, they could certainly have avoided taking a photo of the room and sending it to someone else.


I couldn't read the article because of paywall. But from the part you quoted. It seems like this can be a plausibly scenario:

- Someone (possibly a group of people) is trying to organize a time for maximum attendance for some meeting or protest.

- They are checking peoples "public for internal" calendars, maybe sharing between themselves.

- "Screenshots of some of their calendars, including their names and details, __subsequently__ made their way outside the company." This means they are not leaking the screenshots to outside from my understanding.

As google has access to all data, reason why this calendar screenshots shared etc, and never mentioned here, making me suspect google is at fault here.


why were they able to subscribe to those calendars in the first place? google's privacy even in company sucks it seems


Pretty remarkable that all 4 of them engaged in the exact same alleged snooping activity, were all union organizers and were all fired.

In a company with thousands of employees, what are the odds.


I don't know if Google's story here is honest, but the two protesters' certainly aren't. They were not organizing anything to do with improving the working conditions or treatment of their co-workers - they were explicitly attempting to subvert company policy for their own political ends, in ways which are highly controversial and likely went against the wishes of many of their peers. There is no reasonable way you could call this legitimate union activity.

While others have rightly pointed out that Google's statements about stalking and harassment are vague enough that they could refer to reasonable activities, I have no doubt that people engaging in this kind of political intrigue would have to resort to some kind of harassment at some point.

I'm not saying that Google is right here. But the fired protesters are definitely in the wrong.


In particular, looking at one of the fired employee's Twitter, even in October, they were publicly bashing their employer, calling them evil, etc. pp [0]

[0] https://twitter.com/Tri_Becca90/status/1187460338784055296

It really does come off as if they are using unionizing as a veil for their political activism.

Shitting all over your employer on social media tends to be symptomatic for a certain character style who was long welcomed at Google, and probably felt empowered to take it further and further, to a point of actively damaging the company's interest. It takes someone pretty tone-deaf to do that and not expect to be fired.


Google is a political entity. Anyone controlling info flow is.

There are lot of people in Google deluding themselves that this is not true, while taking decisions that effect millions of people. Who elected them? That contradiction will always create political tensions.

If they don't want to be political they should stick to tech like phones and browsers and sell off Search and YouTube. Until that happens don't call polical objections and resistance wrong.


There is a difference between 'resistance' (whatever that even means) against your own company versus against fellow employees.

In what universe should a company let workers organize against fellow employees apart from simply having those workers complain to HR? This is particularly specious when organizing for 'political' reasons.

This is the issue: were they organizing for the purposes of 'resisting' the company or were other employees also apart of what they were 'resisting'? If the former, then what Google did seems questionable. If more like the latter, then the people rightfully were fired.


You cannot accept a paycheck from a company, while also be trying to subvert it internally.

It is crazy you don't understand that.


If you aren't part of the company you can't subvert it internally because you aren't internal. Your logic seems rather flawed. Unless you are expecting them to work for the company for free while trying to subvert it.


No, they could work somewhere else, while attempting to oppose Google.


But that is not "trying to subvert it internally".


Regardless, they should still leave and try to oppose it while working somewhere else.


Why not? Being inside the company you are in the best position to actually change/subvert it for real.


Well you can but now carry a baseline hypocrisy that undermines anything you’d hope to accomplish.

I have a hard time respecting these people for that reason. Hard not to view someone as entitled, or having some form of delusional idealism, when they trash their company on Twitter. Every tweet was made either shortly before or after one their exceptionally large Google paychecks was direct deposited into their account.

Further highlighting this obscure world view, they thought they wouldn’t be fired for these things? Maybe they did know they’d be fired - that would at least be a credible signal of rational thought and motivation.


You certainly can, what stop you from it? You never had a disagreement at your work? You never tried to convince them that their decisions were bad? Then you were "subverting them"...

The fact that you were disagreeing with their ethics or politics doesn't change a single thing.

It's also completely useless and hurt the conversation to do personal attacks like saying it's "crazy" to not share your opinion.


HR stops you from doing that. Publicly bad mouthing the company you work for is definitely grounds for termination. If it was any other company in any other state it would have happened quickly and swiftly. It wouldn't be a news story.


> Publicly bad mouthing the > company you work for > is definitely grounds > for termination

Having not read any of the tweets in question, I can not say what the content is about.

However, according to https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/can-you-fire-someone-for-t..., speech about working conditions and union organising is protected.

I suspect none of us armchair lawyers will come up with a simple way to analyse these tweets with a lot of context that isn't available.


> Publicly bad mouthing the company you work for is definitely grounds for termination.

We aren't talking about termination on that ground though. We wouldn't have this discussion here if it was, I would actually agree with it (though I would still find it sad that the company wouldn't try to improve what an employee see as an issue).

> HR stops you from doing that.

Here's the exact quote from the comment I was answering to:

> You cannot accept a paycheck from a company, while also be trying to subvert it internally.

We weren't talking about "Publicly bad mouthing" but about "subvert it internally", or in a less threatening way "changing how the company works internally". I believe you have all the rights to do this even on its paycheck, it's about improving what the company does, which is pretty much what employees are paid for.


Of course you're entitled to your point of view, but dismissing any other perspective on the matter as "crazy" is, well, itself a little bit crazy ;)

Putting aside the contract law side of this, philosophically what you're saying doesn't make sense to me. If Google were to direct some of its employees tomorrow to restrict the flow of information relating to a hot-button political issue, right in the middle of an election cycle, would it be crazy for some of the employees to attempt to "subvert" the company to prevent that from happening?


> If Google were to direct some of its employees tomorrow to restrict the flow of information relating to a hot-button political issue, right in the middle of an election cycle, would it be crazy for some of the employees to attempt to "subvert" the company to prevent that from happening?

Yes, it would be. What they should do in that case is resign. Google isn't the military — you can leave any time you want to.

And while it may not be easy for a black janitor to leave Billy Bob's House of Cars if Billy Bob starts airing racist commercials, given Google salaries and Google's technical reputation, I think it's probably incredibly easy for a Googler to leave at any time.

If you cannot support your employer's decisions, you leave. Think what an impact that would make!


Maybe you would resign, but plenty of other people would rather stay and fight. You can have much more impact by staying and fighting than by leaving.


Yeah, these folks were brazen. They would have gotten much much worse in the tactics they were willing to use to pressure fellow employees to their political ends.


Why are you giving Google the benefit of the doubt, but not to the employee? Do you have more details about the situation beyond that letter Google sent out, or are you just trusting Google by default because...well, I can't imagine why.


Because Bloomberg asked at least one of the fired employees for comment, and she would not comment even to deny Google's story.


So? That doesn't mean they're guilty. There are many reasons why they wouldn't want to give a comment. Maybe they're planning a lawsuit and their lawyer told them to keep quiet.


There are many reasons why Google wouldn't want to give a comment too, but they did it anyway.

I'm not saying I know for a fact they're guilty. I have no objections to anyone who wants to withhold judgment. But I don't think it's reasonable to look at a clear, unrefuted accusation of misconduct and say "well I don't trust Google".


> There are many reasons why Google wouldn't want to give a comment too, but they did it anyway.

Which only show that Google has more to win by giving a comment than if they didn't. That could show that steering the public opinion is more beneficial to them than what may follow.

> I don't think it's reasonable to look at a clear

They clearly mentioned "including personal matters such as 1:1s, medical appointments and family activities". After reading the comment and understanding that they actually just subscribed to the work calendars of theses peoples, that do happens to put personal activities there. They made it seems like their goals was to follow their personal activities, which more likely wasn't. It made me realize how disingenuous their memo was and wasn't made to show the truth but to smear them.

This is why I don't trust them in this situation. Is this reasonable?

I want to add that not trusting Google in this situation doesn't means I do trust the employee that got fired. As you said, they gave no response, thus I have nothing to use to either trust them, or not.


Again, I have no objection to the position that we shouldn't trust either side and have no idea what really happened. But it doesn't sound like that's the position you're taking; you mentioned 2 sentences earlier that you've concluded Google's statement was a disingenuous smear campaign.


I came to a conclusion based on what Google said. I explained how I came to that conclusion in detail too. You makes it seems like my position is wrong, can you details that a bit more?

You may have misunderstood the last paragraph, where I say that I don't know if I can trust the employees yet either, I wasn't talking about Google, that was explained in the first part of the comment.


Is it unreasonable because google has never before done things untrustworthy with regards to their employees?

https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-tech-jo...

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/mar/11/google-ex...


It's unreasonable to decide that, because Google has done bad things in the past, every single thing they say is necessarily a lie.


That is not what 'distrust' means.


Because the actions described are unsurprising for these types of people (antagonistic people who write unhinged stuff on twitter, refer to their employer as "evil", and so on).


Just because someone isn't praising a mega corporation 24/7 doesn't mean they're unhinged.


Referring to your employer as "evil" is definitely not the same as "isn't praising a mega corporation 24/7".


This is within the purview of union activity. The notion that their peers didn't agree is speculative. At the barest level, Google is an unusual company in an unusual technological, social, and political position, and their employees have the right to organize to shape that via union activity. It's part and parcel of labor organization. I mean, that doesn't mean you have to accept it, but to say that it isn't legitimate union activity is incorrect.


I've always viewed my employers as a means to support myself and my family. I keep political activites separate. (The same way I keep recreational, religious, etc. activities separate. No use in telling my coworkers everything about me!)

I think such a housecleaning is understandable. I don't force my politics on others, I wouldn't want theirs forced on me. My colleagues do not speak for me in this regard.


Google’s statement is, in my opinion, disingenuous.

Including personal information on your work calendar without using privacy controls is pretty bad practice, though obviously some people occasionally did it. There is no indication that this information was a target of the fired employees. There is also no indication that these personal events were included in screenshots “outside the company”. And that phrase encompasses a wide range of possibilities, I suspect that Google made it so general because the specifics would have sounded more benign.

The statement in general is designed to cast the four in the worst possible light.


Irrespective of Google's statement, it appears that the people they were following felt unsafe. There's a little bit of "why didn't you tell me" to this. If someone were cataloging my every movement because I left my phone broadcasting to a bunch of Bluetooth beacons then sure it's my fault for doing that but if you're my coworker surely you'd tell me! If you instead were all like "Yup, it's bad practice to be doing that so of course I could tell where you were at all times. All I did was set up the beacons, man. You broadcast to them." I'd think they were pretty fucking weird. I'd seriously think they're a kook of some sort.

Likewise, if you saw me put "Get kidney transplant" on my calendar and decided to subscribe to my calendar, then that's pretty fucking weird. I wouldn't buy "that's bad practice so I was allowed to stalk you". I'd be like "this dude is a fucking weirdo, can I go work elsewhere?".

My calendar at every place I've worked has been public with private events for sensitive stuff but any time I put some private stuff public I'd expect someone to ask me if I meant to do that if they noticed.


If you can get someone to agree on the record that they felt unsafe, you then have cover to take almost any action on behalf of their safety.


I do appreciate that some people felt unsafe, but I wonder how exactly the messaging was made. Nobody ever came to me and asked how I felt about my work calendar being shared. You can't even get that information from Google.

So this information on sharing was provided to particular people, and they were asked, "do you feel scared?". Presentation is everything, and if presented in terms of how their personal information was included, it can feel different compared to when shown in neutral terms. In addition, if these people were told that the four employees were dangerous or a threat, this will also colour their viewpoints.

Bluetooth and kidney transplant arguments are about two hypothetical stories, and pointing out that if these had happened, it would be weird (well, yes it would, but that's not this story, they are very different).


Why in the first place someone was screencapping someone's calendar? Were they trying to organize some impromptu meeting with a hihger-up? Who was scared exactly? How did this came to light?

I mean if the recently fired folks tried to pressure some other group, that's bad, and it seems it has nothing to do with unionizing. But if they were trying to catch some elusive exec to have a statement from, that could be different.

But there are no specifics anywhere, just "Google bad, union good" or "stalkers bad"


Agreed that there's not enough context to say why screencapping happened, what happened to said screencaps, and how all of this turned into scared employees.

I currently perceive Google's note as if it were a press release; treat with appropriate scepticism. We'll have to see if more information comes to light.


Many would argue that the team the person looked up was making other employees feel unsafe by installing a mandatory policy enforcement chrome plugin for the entire company. So looking at their calendars and seeing what their meetings are about could just be seen as making sure the team isn't doing something nefarious. But of course the people who spies on behalf of management gets special privileges so nobody gets to even look up public information about them, then they evidently get fired.

Example of employees feeling targeted:

https://time.com/5709653/google-employee-spy-tool/


> There is no indication that this information was a target of the fired employees.

This bit?

"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"


They obviously subscribed to work calendars in order to follow the work activities of those people. There is no other technical way to do that.

There isn’t a way to separate out personal events — which shouldn’t be there, or at least should be marked private.

That this information was included, does not indicate that it was a target; it does indicate that it was a useful way for Google to attack their actions.


Even if it was purely just to follow their internal work calendar - which seems unlikely, as they weren't people in their work group - it doesn't explain this:

>"Screenshots of some of their calendars, including their names and details, subsequently made their way outside the company."

There is no reason to be sharing a work calendar with others outside the company, and without that person's permission.


> subsequently made their way outside the company

Does Google allege that the fired workers were responsible for that?

The quote clearly suggests that, but if Google won't make a clear allegation (in a statement containing other clear allegations), they must not have much evidence, if any.


If google is making false statements on the matter they will be in for a world of hurt. Its just not likely that large, publicly traded, heavily scrutinized corps like Google are going to lie about matters soon to be litigated.

Meanwhile the individuals in question have zero reason NOT to lie to reporters; they're under no legal obligations and can say what they want.


> If google is making false statements on the matter they will be in for a world of hurt.

Is that so? When faced with unions in their infancy, often the companies come out with all guns blazing. They might even face fines after an incredibly lengthy court battle, but putting down that organizing effort down while it hasn't taken roots is more important to them.


Opposing unions in an illegal manner is not likely to impress the various oversight agencies, or any courts that get involved.

Once a company becomes big enough, claims that they're lying to persecute a handful of users become implausible because the potential liability for doing so vastly outweighs the minor benefits they might gain. And this isnt the 1920s, you can't just fire people for trying to unionize and realistically think that it will solve the problem or that no one will notice.

Ignore the names of the companies / individuals involved, their histories, etc-- just look at the incentives that each party has around lying vs telling the truth-- and it's not hard to accept that Google is more likely to be truthful about this than a terminated employee.


To be clear, I'm not suggesting Google is lying.

I suspect they have evidence of exactly what they said, that the screenshots were obtained by people outside Google, but don't have evidence that the fired workers were responsible for that.

Given the other contents of the statement, I think if Google had evidence that a fired worker sent a screenshot outside the company, they would say so.


> If google is making false statements on the matter they will be in for a world of hurt. Its just not likely that large, publicly traded, heavily scrutinized corps like Google are going to lie about matters soon to be litigated.

The potential lying from Google is also done by individuals who have no obligations to tell the truth. To me it seems incredibly rare that a human being (the person(s) doing the lying) gets any significant punishment for actions credited to a company. In my observation the more common scenarios are that the company and employees either fully get away with blatant lies or the company has to pay a small fine in relation to its profits.


>The potential lying from Google is also done by individuals who have no obligations to tell the truth.

They're representing the company in their official capacities, and as such the company will bear any consequences. There can also be individual sanctions, such as happened with Elon Musk who is now individually forbidden from being CEO because of a tweet he made.

> In my observation the more common scenarios are that the company and employees either fully get away with blatant lies

Then you're not paying attention. Public companies lying to shareholders open themselves up to massive liability, including SEC action and civil suits from those shareholders.


I'm sure it's just a crazy coincidence...


Google's statement does not claim that the screenshots were shared with others. "Outside the company" covers a multitude of possibilities. It could also include saving screenshots in one's personal GMail account (in Google Docs, etc.), which Google may be able to access (I don't know if they can or not, but the relevant company is the US, where these things are usually more legal than in the EU).

If so, it might suggest a wish to share with people in future, e.g. in a court case, etc., but it doesn't necessarily mean that this information _has been_ shared.

It could also mean that the information _was_ shared with others, just pointing out that it isn't exactly what the statement says.


There is a way - use different calendars for work and home. Preferably with different accounts (work account vs personal account).

You can then blend the 2 calendars either in the mobile app, or by importing one to the other account.

I'm a bit surprised to hear some people would use their work calendar for personal activities, I don't see why you would do that.


I sometimes put personal appointments into a work calendar to avoid getting people scheduling meetings for that time (as a manager, I get a lot of people scheduling meetings on my behalf).

Usually the personal details are pretty sparse -- just containing the minimum I'd normally share in person eg "dentist", "doctors", "kids school performance" / "parents evening". These would be days where I'm technically working but organising my work hours around a personal appointment (otherwise I'd just put "annual leave" if I'm taking a full or half day off).

This would be enough to fall in line with Google's statement even though I'm technically not using work's calendar for personal appointments.


I meant, there is no way for subscribers to a calendar to do that automatically. There are possible heuristics that could filter out clearly personal entries (keywords, etc.), but that feature would need to be implemented by (cough) Google.

There are obvious ways for calendar owners to separate the information (which was not done in the instances that Google refer to).


Because you have one life and busy days and personal and professional merge with a lunchtime meeting then an afternoon doctor's appointment etc.

When you are back to back most days (common at Google) you can't be juggling multiple calendar accounts all the time, not least because a personal event doesn't show on your professional cal meaning someone can try to double book that slot.


Idk, I use Google Calendar (browser, android app) and currently run work calendar, private calendar, and facebook events seamlessly. Don't think I've spent much time at all setting it up, either.


Other people can't see the other calendars though.


Right, but there's no way to separate out personal events when you subscribe to someone else's work calendar if they put personal events on their work calendar.


But if you subcribe to such (edit: you colleague's) calendars for work purposes then why set up notifications for family activities ?


> "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"

Which could mean simply:

1) individual subscribed to other employee's work calendars, which are visible to everyone within Google,

2) individual had calendar notifications turned on, and

3) other employees posted personal matters on their work calendars.


This appears to be the default for G Suite settings, though. I can set up notifications to receive emails about work calendar entries for anyone in my company.

Details around medical, family etc. are only visible if the employee adds that information to their work calendar.


It's a little stalky, but yeah your work calendar is public on purpose - it's incredibly useful. People look it up before walking to your desk to chat and especially before setting up meetings. Just put a block of "busy", serves the same purpose. Nobody really cares if you're in a hospital or just running.


Does that give them the right to take a screenshot of it and send it out of the company?


You cannot take any screenshot or any document or any piece of code from any company. This is common sense, in addition to probably being a copyright issue. I'm not sure why would anyone expect to be respected by their employer without following this rule.

I meant public as in "internally public".


Including personal information on your work calendar without using privacy controls is pretty bad practice, though obviously some people occasionally did it.

Given the attitude Google itself has towards privacy in general, I'm not at all surprised by this... if I remember correctly, employees are even expected (obliged?) to use their personal Google account for work.

I'd never work for Google, one of the reasons being this "work-life mixing". I personally maintain a very strict "firewall" between personal and employee matters.


> if I remember correctly, employees are even expected (obliged?) to use their personal Google account for work.

You remember completely incorrectly.


“Show me the man and I'll show you the crime”

I think our attitude should be cautiously skeptical of any Google provided reason for firing these individuals. It could very well be that their alleged behavior was technically against company policy but in line with typical Google employee behavior. It might just be a convenient reason to fire them given their unionizing efforts.

I really wish a jury of peers is used to fire people in this age of disproportionate corporate power.


That’s a ridiculous idea. It’s a job, not a judicial system. I suspect our real disagreement is around your “disproportionate corporate power” remark. I believe that’s how it’s supposed to be. The people running the company have more power than the workers. If the workers don’t like it, they can go to another company they more prefer or start their own. And don’t tell me it’s not possible. Google is only 20 years old. Facebook is younger than that. Both started in college.

The power lies with the corporation because that’s where the risk and responsibility is. You don’t risk much driving to your job at a big company and collecting your check every two weeks. You risk everything and take on responsibility for a lot of people when you’re the one who starts the company or who has to lead it or a large portion of it.


>It’s a job, not a judicial system.

That doesn't change that they can easily misrepresent the facts in a way that any person subjected to similar treatment would view it as lying. And given the power differential, they will likely be unable to use the court system to protect themselves against such attacks.

This is a weakness in our current system the strong use to exploit the weak. Isn't that something we should look down upon and punish?


And that's when you take it up with the real judicial system, not some quasi-judicial "jury of my peers" in the company.


A jury of peers is a cornerstone of justice. When the accused is an employee where better to find peers than within the same work environment?


Just go to other company. Surely it's a perfect market economy and there's any kind of agreement that prevents you to be hired: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/24/apple-goo...

There's just one way to prevent the "disproportionate corporate power", its called unions. Wait! Maybe you'll be fired if you try to create one.


Is there any indication that this is still true? People seem to hop between these companies all the time. Even the fired organizers now have companies recruiting them on Twitter.


> It’s a job, not a judicial system

People effectively reviewed the cases, hopefully discussed in details and came to a conclusion.

There was a decision process, it's not outlandish to have a review process coupled with an appeal process as needed. That's what happens for performance evaluations in a lot of companies.


> The people running the company have more power than the workers. If the workers don’t like it, they can go to another company they more prefer or start their own.

You're forgetting one obvious option that's been repeatedly and successfully used: unionize.


I'm not a big fan of unions. Certainly not in this case. I think where they are more effective is where the workers are largely interchangeable and do not possess abilities that are unique from other workers - or at least an environment where uniqueness is not valued by the company. Think highly regulated industries or an environment where you need a highly reliable and consistent baseline more than you need high performers or creativity. Unions can protect those workers that are largely interchangeable from the company throwing them out like garbage in favor of someone cheaper or who will put up with more crap for a paycheck. Unions are good at establishing consistency at the expense of innovation.

I think unions are the wrong answer in tech. Knowledge workers are not equal, their innovation and uniqueness is valuable and they should not be lumped together into one class where there is little to no incentive to stand out. Frankly, I'm surprised these types of people would be interested in a union in the first place because they are the likeliest beneficiaries of there not being a union and the most equipped to successfully go out on their own.


I think you misunderstand why tech workers are organizing. It's because they have moral or ethical qualms with what their employers are doing, not because they aren't making enough money. You're right, if the latter were their issue, then they could just shop employers, and they do. It's not that.

Googlers are organizing now because they disagree with actions the company is taking. They want to have a greater say in what kind of stuff the company does and they want safety from retaliation for speaking their mind. A union contract would go a long way towards accomplishing these goals.

Even a year ago the argument that Google didn't need unions was much stronger. Now that employees are actively being fired by management, wanting a union to protect against that makes a lot more sense.


The NFL players association is a highly successful union for people with unique abilities. Same with the Screen Actors Guild.

Highly specialized labor benefits from unionization as well.


The NFL is also the only successful employer of professional football players which makes that situation unique. There are several gigantic tech companies and millions of other jobs available that aren’t at Google. Do you have another example?


There is literally another example in my previous post.


> You don’t risk much driving to your job at a big company and collecting your check every two weeks.

In the grand scheme of things you don't risk much, true. But you do risk the majority of the things that are most important to you. Like your place to live, your spouse, your kids, your stuff, your pets... And if the industry goes under, your community. For some people that would be 'risking everything'.

There's no requirement in the Business Rule Book that says you actually have to give a shit about the welfare of the employees you laid off. Yes, there are people who care a lot, but it's not a requirement, and plenty of companies get along just fine without it.

What is important is that your remaining employees believe that you care about them. And even a sociopath can manage the illusion of that without too much effort. But the people we got rid of? They're not as cool as you are, my friends. Now get back to work or you're next.


this is a really bad fallback response to a company doing something that is, essentially, evil.


You're describing a possible world, but you're not describing the real world. Responsibility, especially in the corporate world, is not straight forward. Truly holding someone responsible for anything is a rare event. The modern corporation is very good at presenting the illusion of responsibility without the accountability of it.

Workers aren't stupid. They see the bullshit and want protection. And the bullshit is so pervasive it's everywhere, so it's not like changing jobs is really going to change anything.

So you can lie to yourself and say 'no this is how it is,' but you're not going to convince anyone by just asserting that your ideas are how reality work, especially when trying to convince people who are already aware of your ideas and rejected them because they do not match reality.


> I really wish a jury of peers is used to fire people in this age of disproportionate corporate power.

You mean like a union?

(Or at least how I imagine unions could work, by policing under/non-performing members.)


This is exactly what omniscient corporate surveillance is for: if you monitor employees continuously, you'll always find a fireable offense sooner or later, which can be kept safely in reserve until it's time to get rid of them for reasons that would otherwise be illegal (organizing a labor union, reporting sexual harassment, etc.). It's really depressing to see so many people on HN falling for it.


The mental gymnastics some of us are using to justify the bad actions of these employees are astounding.

Making documents and calendars accessible is one example of Google’s “open culture.” When these features are abused in an attempt to strong arm a company or coworkers into kowtowing to each of your demands, that’s sabotage of the company’s culture at the expense of tens of thousands of your coworkers who may not share your political views on every issue. Say your piece, keep saying it if you feel so compelled, but don’t cross the line into unethical behavior and cry “retaliation!” when you’re caught.


If Heather Adkins endorses the message that these employees were terminated for sharing internal Google data to the outside, then that was probably the case. I don't think we have to care who these employees were or why they did what they did; they severely broke policy.

But I'm absolutely sure there's an element of "rules for thee but not for me".


So in your eyes a senior Google executive is a trustworthy and unbiased person in this controversy?


Adkins has been around a long time and is well known internally. She has always played it straight as far as I know. She isn't some faceless Voice of Google, she has her own reputation to consider and one she has built.

Now let's look at the people on the other side: a nobody who has been describing her own employer as literally evil in public, to anyone who will listen, but who mysteriously failed to leave of her own accord. Google isn't actually evil or even close to it, only someone seriously mentally unstable could believe that, and would such a person harass political opponents by leaking their private lives onto the internet (presumably to somewhere they hoped would cause those employees problems?). Absolutely they would. Googlers already have form in leaking screenshots of internal sites to highlight political disagreements.


> Google isn't actually evil or even close to it, only someone seriously mentally unstable could believe that

Personally, I think anyone who "trusts" a corporation as large as Google is mentally unstable. There are very clear, well-documented instances of Google being objectively evil, and there's no sign of this changing. Maybe you don't follow that news?

> She isn't some faceless Voice of Google, she has her own reputation to consider and one she has built.

So you're telling me that if her boss instructed her to read a prepared statement or be fired, she'd give up her position atop a mountain of gold just to appease some random fanboys on the internet?

> and would such a person harass political opponents by leaking their private lives onto the internet (presumably to somewhere they hoped would cause those employees problems?). Absolutely they would.

Now you're assaulting the character of a person you don't know for no good reason.


There are very clear, well-documented instances of Google being objectively evil

Look, the English language has a limited range of words for describing malicious acts. We have simple words like bad, wrong. We have more complex words like criminal, illegal, immoral. We have nuanced words like suboptimal, misguided, psychotic, naive. And at the extreme end we have evil.

Is there a word for something/someone worse than evil? I'm struggling to think of it. You'd have to start saying things like, well, maybe Google is evil but Hitler/Mao/Stalin were really really evil. There just isn't anywhere you can go from there.

Google is not evil in any mature usage of the English language. You may not like its business model, perhaps you think Google should charge you money for its services and dispose of the ads. You may disagree with some of the decisions its executives make. But nothing Google has ever done even begins to justify using the most extreme words in the English language, not even close, not even remotely in the same general area. If you describe Google this way you're saying they're the worst thing that could possibly exist, which is foolish in the extreme. It's just crying wolf: why would anyone pay attention if one day you discover an organisation that is actually doing much worse stuff? Nobody will care because they'll just write you off.

Now you're assaulting the character of a person you don't know for no good reason.

The "assault" is simply me evaluating the likelihood of competing claims, based on (in one case) actually having met and had direct experience of Ms Adkins when I used to work at Google, and in the other case public words and actions of someone I never met. Based on that evidence I judge it likely that Google's claims are true, albeit, this is only a weak judgement as it's ultimately he said/she said.


Lol you just wrote three whole paragraphs to say Google isn’t as bad as Hitler. I don’t even know what to say to that. How far gone into fanboyitis must one be to reach that point?

Ok, maybe Google isn’t as bad as Hitler. I’ll give you that. Maybe that’s why they chose the slogan “don’t be evil” many years ago, since that was the lowest they could possibly set the bar at the time. Can we at least agree then that Google is “very very bad”? Where does that vocabulary fall on your quantitative scale of evil? It should be sufficiently far from Hitler to have a focused discussion, I hope.

> actually having met and had direct experience of Ms Adkins when I used to work at Google

So you’re not only biased in favor of Google, you’re also biased in favor of this lady. Doesn’t seem like anyone is going to change your mind then. Good luck with your less-evil-than-Hitler corporate overlords.


Bias maybe unavoidable, but trustworthy is an earned personal attribute. Context doesn’t affect it.

Some people have integrity and have earned their credibility. This exact kind of situation is when that matters.


I mean, it is pretty ironic to have Google fire someone for intruding on someone's privacy... Quite a turnaround. I don't know if I fully believe their side of the story but not sure if there's much reason to think otherwise. Does Google have a long history against unions or something?


> I mean, it is pretty ironic to have Google fire someone for intruding on someone's privacy...

Not ironic at all. I remember seeing a Googler commenting that misusing personal data was one of the most serious violation there.

And it makes sense because of all the data they collect. For now, they have been no significant leaks or incidents of that kind. And people trust them with their data for that reason. A leak would have disastrous effects, with loss of trust and lawsuits costing billions. Considering Google scale, it may even affect politics.


they're just starting that long history. unions come up because companies have to increase profits and eventually, after other growth slows, that comes at the expense of their employees. the recent spate of activism against google is a symptom of that. it will only get worse as they clamp down.


Anyone else thinks Google is getting too much protests, walkouts, processions compared to other big companies like MS in its peak days? It even missed a defense contract of $10B because its employees didn't like it, which MS picked up happily.

I wonder how it's like working there now a days.


People think worker organizing is a sign of worker discontent. Sometimes it is. But mostly it's a sign of worker energy. It's a sign that people care about improving their workplace and care a ton about what their company stands for and represents and want a say in it.

Workers LEAVING a company is a sign of worker discontent, especially when they could get a job elsewhere.


I honestly don't notice this stuff at work, and find out about most of it from HN, but I'm a middle-aged white guy in the New York office, so YMMV?

My experience is that Google hasn't really changed much over the last 10 years, beyond a few superficial details (mailing lists -> memegen) and growing in size, with the expected difficulties that brings.


I honestly dont see enough critical of Google. Here most are downvoted, and they are largely ignored in the regular media.


Google wouldn't have won that contract anyway. Contrary to the hn echo chamber Google is a distant 3rd in cloud and that too because of brand recognition. Their offerings are subpar


Care to elaborate more especially on the subpar issue? Is it related to SLA?

I thought their ml cloud offerings were superior


4th. Everyone always forgets Aliyun. Google is an also-ran in cloud and will probably scrap it at some point. Look out for it on https://killedbygoogle.com/


How much revenue is Aliyun? And what about the second in Chinese? (Tencent?)

I do hope Aliyun starts offering in the US soon- would benefit competition.


> In 2018, in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) segment of the cloud, Alibaba Cloud had 43% market share while Tencent had an 11.5% market share in 2018.

source: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/alibaba-vs-tencent-battle-clo...

Aliyun (Alibaba Cloud) is doing business in US: https://alibabacloud.com/


This is just the start. As software becomes less specialized and more engineers are less skilled (ie. coming from boot camps, self taught, etc), you’ll see a lot more organizing efforts which means more union busting. Workers deserve rights, including the right to organize.


This was union busting? I didn't see anywhere a mention that these employees were organizing for pay/working conditions/benefits/et


Thank you for disparaging self taught engineers as less skilled. God forbid we have the mental fortitude to learn something on our own. Who taught Newton calculus again?

I do agree with the right to organize. Troubling times ahead.


Controversy aside, I wish Google would come out and say, "These employees had an 'at will' employment contract that we (Google) terminated.", and leave it at that. I'm pretty curious what would come of that, in the media and elsewhere.


Even with "at will" employment, workers still have some protection from termination. For example, anti-discrimination laws prohibit people from being fired for a number of reasons, including their race, gender, sexuality, etc. Another form of protection covers union activity. This is what's at issue here.


Its funny how Google liked so much to virtue signal its own pseudo-progressive agenda and hired to suit and now has it biting in the ass. One day companies, large and small will learn to stop being political as a PR move since its never worth it in the long run.


Still, I'd ask: why do you work for Google if you realize your value and goals are more aligned with something otherwise? By such it might actually be a good thing for one to be fired - it's not easy to make sure a company is not evil if its business motivation / culture doesn't by itself advocate for a positive non-evilness; it's better to find another company that has much simpler and better reasons for "not be evil".


Some people don't subscribe to your belief that rather than improve your workplace you should just leave. Google created a culture and set of values and recruited based on that. So of course they shouldn't be surprised when the people who were recruited on those values try to live up to them, even when there's some push back. Nor should they be surprised when people bring additional values they may personally hold to the companies where they work.

Yes, it might be "simpler" to just leave whenever you meet resistance on the job -- but it's also less rewarding.

Finally, I'd add that there are no perfect workplaces. There are also shared problems across entire industries.


> Google created a culture and set of values and recruited based on that.

Company culture changes. Companies change. The fact that you were told one thing or a company had a particular reputation when you joined doesn’t mean that thing will always hold true.

Union busting and discrimination are illegal. Terminating someone’s at-will employment because they are acting against the company’s interest isn’t.

From what I have read thus far, this situation sounds a lot more like the latter than the former despite some of the people involved claiming it’s the former.

Perhaps more facts will come out to support that position, but in the meantime I am with the grandparent post. These people want to have their cake (i.e. some of the largest total compensation packages in the industry) and eat it too (force policy by protesting management choices expecting no consequences).


Maybe it's my fault if I didn't explain it well enough, but you don't seem to understand the point I'm making. What I was responding to wasn't whether Google was right or wrong (though I think they're wrong), but instead why it's worth it for lots of people to improve their workplace rather than just quit.


How do you think company culture changes, if not due to people pushing the company in a certain direction?

It seems odd that you don't dispute that companies change, yet seem to dislike people trying to make a company change. Or do you believe it's only bad when the workers want things to change but find it acceptable when upper management fucks over the company culture?


> It seems odd that you don't dispute that companies change, yet seem to dislike people trying to make a company change.

I don’t “dislike” people trying to make a company change. There are ways to change companies from within, discreetly, by building consensus around those things you would like to change. It isn’t easy, and there is no guarantee of success. Often people trying to do exactly that end up losing their positions, or end up not advancing, as a result of being “out of step” with the culture.

That doesn’t appear to be what’s happening here at all, though. You have employees trying to publicly exert pressure on management. You cannot do that and expect no consequences.


You can't retaliate against employees for speaking out publicly and expect no consequences, either. This is going to hurt Google -- in the public eye and with its workforce.


> This is going to hurt Google

Possibly.

> in the public eye

I seriously doubt that. People are busy and have a lot of things to be concerned about. The general perception of SV employees doesn't seem to be very favorable from what I've seen, either within the Bay Area or beyond. The average worker in middle America is not going to feel much compassion for people making $200k a year who end up out of work because they publicly challenge their employer.

> and with its workforce.

That's the calculus that they (Google management) needs to compute. How do they deal with this situation without angering so many people that they end up losing people they want to retain. The other side of that is of course the absolute disinterest in keeping people who are not key contributors but are likely to be "activist".

FWIW, I know ~50 people at Google, and although I am not in touch with most of them on a very regular basis, of the ones I have been in touch with exactly 0 of them have any sympathy for the positions of the people who are making a public scene.

What they are concerned with is the company being seen as a place where people are running amok and the work isn't seen as the first priority by the employees. That can be demoralizing to the rest of the staff who are interested in having impact and can affect recruiting if potential recruits think the company is a big hot mess.


If I might add, that some employees might even see the need to speak out about issues, because if not them, who will? Leaving just gives the company a chance to replace them with someone who -will not- challenge the status quo.

Some people resign in protest, and some people stay and challenge the problem. It depends on the person.


Is everything perfect where you work? If it is, I want to know how can we apply?!

Most likely, you aren't agreeing with all what your company does. There has to be some decision, either in management, or in product direction, or anything, that you disagree with and you tried, or will try, to change that. Is the solution simply to quit and get another job? Do you simply quit because improving that part is too complex? Or do you persevere because you believe in the company and think it can become so much better?


As always with these stories you have to read between the lines to work out what kind of culture-war zealots Google is having to contend with.


Anybody who interact with the US IT scene, especially the silicon valley knows what's up. From GitHub to NPM to Google it's political shitshow after political shitshow. It's rogue employees brainwashed by a cunning, sophistic and insidious ideology, transforming the workplace into a political battleground with the goal of making it impossible for people without "the right politics" to work there, under guise of "unionizing".

First it was tech conferences, then open source communities, now it's IT businesses themselves that need to be in the service of that ideology. These people are trying to turn IT into the same ideological shithole they turned academia into...


Right. And I don't get what their plan is. In academia they may leverage external support, e.g. someone outside makes generous donations to a university on monthly basis and then hints that if that wrong white male isn't fired or expelled, the donations might stop. Google can't be manipulated this way and obviously, these activists will be lucky to get any support outside their circles.


Just keep up the moral and psychological pressure, that's all it takes. Look at the constant leftward drift in academia. Not all of that is rich donors mysteriously interested in political agendas that involve increasing their own tax rate; most of it isn't.

The sort of people who would politically oppose them are conservatives, who by their very nature tend to be ... conservative. That is, careful about challenging the status quo and uninterested in activism. So frequently they just stay quiet and don't talk much about their views: that's why the walkouts and Googler activists on Twitter always seem to have the same agenda. It looks like Googlers all agree but they don't, not at all.

But this has an insidious impact in two forms:

1. People whose own convictions aren't that strong can be easily swayed by constant arguments of the form, "if you disagree with me you're evil and bad" because everyone wants to be good and they're not being supplied with intellectual ammo with which to fight back.

2. People who are trying to calculate the cost of resistance look around and don't see any allies, just a big angry mob, so feel they have to fold even if they disagree.

The correct way to handle this sort of situation is for senior managers to have strong and relatively small-c conservative convictions, such that progressive placard-waving activism is swiftly dealt with via firings with everyone being made clear on why those people got fired (political arguments do not belong in the workplace).

Google doesn't have that and we can see the result.


I think it's worth including here a link to the protesters statement, especially because one of the employees states that they were categorically told they were not fired for leaking company information.

https://medium.com/@GoogleWalkout/googles-next-moonshot-unio...


Are there any numbers for how Google employees at large actually feel about the claims made by organizers (unionization, retaliation, harassment, bad work environments, etc)?

It's hard to tell from the outside how many people actually there agree with, disagree with, or are indifferent to, the efforts of the people who have been fired.


There aren't. The petitions are always for a given cause, not the counter-cause.


Sure. But people who think the status quo is not bad are unlikely to petition for it. So there seems to be a selection problem here.


Yeah, I think you are in agreement.

It’s worse than that though, because I’d be afraid to say anything contrary to the activist’s opinions. I don’t want to be stalked or harassed. The company is extremely tolerant of what employees say, the activists not so much.


Judging from the content of this thread, Google’s investments in union busting consultants and their PR strategies are paying out in spades.


> Judging from the content of this thread, Google’s investments in union busting consultants and their PR strategies are paying out in spades.

Or people aren't fooled by the positive coverage for fired workers and political agitators and know what's really going on, and this has absolutely nothing to do with union busting, just individuals who can't tell a workplace from a culture war battlefield.


Sure, it’s the four fired workers that are conspiring with media to defame the just Google, and not the obscenely wealthy tech company with its armies of lawyers, consultants, and paid influence campaigns shaping the narrative. Seems plausible.


First they get fired J.D. (he who must not be named, or you would get banned by the mods if you dare to) by leaking internal docs and celebrate that like a new year. Now they leak other people's calendars, get fired for that and cry for help. I don't understand who they have as their allies.


Spinning this as a union busting move is disingenuous at best.


Do no evil; unless the opposite affects your bottom line.


Worth noting that "do no evil" was officially removed from their mission statement or whatever several years ago.


Incorrect on many fronts.

It is "don't be evil". It was in their code of conduct, not mission statement. It is not removed from their code of conduct, in fact, it is the final conclusion of the document:

> And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!

https://abc.xyz/investor/other/google-code-of-conduct/

The last edit is from 2018, not several years ago. And its updated cousin motto "Do the right thing" became more prominent.

I suspect a journalist had a diff bot running on the code of conduct, created a story around it about removal, because that would actually constitute a story worth paying journalist wages for, and then the media ran with it, without doing checks of their own. And now, here you are. And I am ignoring the fact that an evil company announcing its future plans by removing references to "evil" in their mission statements is downright James Bond-level of ridiculous.


Also, "don't be evil" was originally a subversive message within Google, scrawled on whiteboards by a handful of people who were concerned about the direction of the company ~20 years ago.

Nothing new under the sun, etc etc.


https://medium.com/@laurenceb/my-remarks-at-the-town-hall-on... for a personal account by one of the ousted engineers. Not sure who is right but it presents the other side.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: