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Four fired workers file charges against Google (theguardian.com)
213 points by CaptainZapp 3 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 269 comments





> At a public protest just days before her firing, Rivers told the 200 Googlers who rallied in opposition to her suspension that Google had wiped her personal phone when it suspended her, erasing many months of photographs

Ouch. Presumably this would have been MDM?

I've never understood why phone makers make this possible for non-device-owners, as it seems like a gigantic foot-gun. To say nothing about the ethics involved.


This person chose to have their free phone from the company as their personal phone too. This is completely optional at Google, a really nice perk, and it's made very clear that anything under your work profile will be wiped if you leave.

They will not wipe your personal phone or your personal profile on your phone. This is completely avoidable and shouldn't come as a surprise.


It's not a perk, it's a liability. This was an option at pretty much every company I worked at and I never understood what moron would choose to put their personal data/life on a corporate device (or connect their personal device to the corporate network and its management policy) with typical policies dictating that not only can the device be remotely wiped, it can also be remotely snooped.

The only brief moment of this being acceptable was Samsung phones being able to have completely split personal/corporate profiles across 2 sims in a single phone and have 2 copies of each app, but that seems to have died.

If your employer is managing the device you're choosing to also use for personal data, it's 100% your fault and 0% surprise when it backfires on you.

If you work in tech and don't have a separate work phone+laptop and personal phone+laptop, you're either a founder or an idiot.


Moron here. I work for Google and use my work phone as my personal phone, via Android work profile, so the work stuff is siloed. This means I have less than full access to company resources, but I don't really want to read code or respond to bugs on my phone anyway.

My understanding is that Google can't see the personal stuff. But it doesn't matter that much to me, personally, if they can (I'm not doing any exciting corporate activism, anything illegal, etc.). At least, it doesn't matter more than a couple grand a year plus the inconvenience of two phones. I'm not saying everyone should feel this way, and obviously some people value privacy more than I do, but that's the trade-off that makes sense for this idiot.


I hope it also doesn’t matter to any of your friends. I would be pretty annoyed if I had a conversation with you and it ended up as property of google.

if you're willing to assume that Google is willing to violate their presumably legally-enforceable policy that they will not view the items in the "personal profile", then one could assume that they would probably also be willing to read data from any Android device. so better tell all of your friends to never use Android or any other Google service.

You guys are insane.

You signed something at work that "all data in google owned devices are property of google". Period.

This is the same as using your company-provided computer for something else.


Yes. This. Exactly.

fwiw - Apple is also working on a similar setup to sandbox corporate apps from personal (with restrictions in between)

> Android work profile, so the work stuff is siloed.

> My understanding is that Google can't see the personal stuff.

You are completely wrong.

First they have access to all your text and calls, since they own the mobile plan you are connecting trhu.

Second, the "device administrator", keyword: device, can wipe out the entire device, not just one account.

> But it doesn't matter that much to me, personally

So why comment on a thread where this is the topic?


Because the commenter I responded to said he couldn't understand why anyone would do what I do. There's an implicit question there that I was attempting to answer.

Good point about also owning the phone plan. But since I use Google Voice for everything (personal account) I'm not sure how much of that they can see (in their capacity as owners of my phone service), and like I said, I'm not doing anything interesting. If Google really wants to see my call logs of wife, wife, friend, mother in law, wife, wife, wife, dad, friend, etc. it's not worth thousands of dollars a year and an extra phone in my pocket to prevent it.


so, you have nothing to hide. cool. Just remember to not use your google voice or google meet for those union talks ;)

If I were involved in such things, of course I wouldn't use a corp device.

Over half of Google's workforce are contractors. Google does not provide a mobile device to contractors. The options for TVC's are to let Google control a personal device or take a significant productivity hit and opt-out of mobile email, chat, and docs.

That's a really crappy policy if I'm understanding it right - not provide a mobile device but insist on completely managing one if they choose to use it for company business? What a shitty way to treat people working for you.

It should be illegal. How much is your employer allowed to know about you or who you contact outside of work?

The answer should be nothing but there's a moral hazard wherein employees can't do much about it without limiting their career.


They are contractors. They don't work for Google. They either work for themselves and have a contract directly with Google, are an employee of a company which has a contract with Google or are a sub-contractor to a company with a contract with Google.

If they are directly contracted with Google or a sub-contractor through another company they should purchase an additional phone for this purpose. Both the phone and the service would be considered a business expense for tax purposes.

If they are a direct employee of another company then that company should be providing a phone for this purpose. If Google or their employer won't provide a phone for this purpose than neither considers it a requirement for the job and they should not worry about it.


How else could corporate IT possibly do it?

A contractor can deduct work expenses from income, a phone is just one item on a long list of things that will be deducted.

If there is corporate information on a device, it would be a breach of their fiduciary responsibility not to manage that device and have the ability to remotely wipe that data.


> If there is corporate information on a device, it would be a breach of their fiduciary responsibility not to manage that device and have the ability to remotely wipe that data.

I don't think, in a legal sense, that's true. It feels like it comes from the same mindset that corporations have a "fiduciary responsibility" to their shareholders to always put profits above all else; in fact, there's nothing in corporate law or financial regulations that requires that at all.

The IT department has responsibility for network and systems policies and company-owned equipment, and it's perfectly reasonable for them to have the ability to wipe data on that equipment or set policies that disallow personal devices on company networks at all. But they have no requirement -- and I would argue no business -- to wipe a non-company device just because someone added a corporate email account to it.

Does that make it marginally more likely that someone could keep corporate email that they weren't supposed to? Sure. But there are other legal ways of handling that which aren't destructive to non-company property. No one would argue that a policy of "if you take physical work home, upon termination the company can set fire to your house to ensure all copies are destroyed" is enforceable.


I’m pretty sure GDPR protection of “personal data” applies to employees and not just customers.

If my personal calendar and work emails are being copied onto your device, you better believe the GDPR data protection regulations apply.

The house example is ridiculous. The point is if you commingle the data in ways such that the endpoint protection software no longer supports delineating the corporate data, then the user (employee/contractor) has opted into that situation with eyes wide open.

> Computing devices need to be protected from loss or theft through mobile device management capabilities, such as remote wipe and kill. A lost device could be the weak link in the data protection chain, leading to a data breach based on information stored on the device or accessible through still active user credentials. Enforcing certain settings in order for a device to connect to the network at all – such as local encryption, password complexity, the presence and currency of security software, and the removal of the local administrator account – will be an essential part of protecting the organization within the GDPR framework.

[1] - https://www.actiance.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/WP-GDPR-...


The house example is exaggerated, but as I wrote in another reply: just as my personal physical property does not become company property if I am on their physical property, my personal data should not become company data if I am on their network.

> If you commingle the data in ways such that the endpoint protection software no longer supports delineating the corporate data, then the user (employee/contractor) has opted into that situation with eyes wide open.

You're assuming the user has been given a clear understanding of the situation, and frankly, I think you're letting the IT department off the hook here. They need to either provide protection that can prevent "commingling" to their satisfaction, to grant a comparable level of trust to users with personal devices that they do in other aspects of conducting business (which was the real point of the example you didn't like), or just to ban personal devices.


> They need to either provide protection that can prevent "commingling" to their satisfaction, to grant a comparable level of trust to users with personal devices that they do in other aspects of conducting business (which was the real point of the example you didn't like), or just to ban personal devices.

DLP (data loss prevention) software should be present on any personal computing device that can store company data, which will be a requirement of their cyber-security insurance policy, a requirement of the various audits they surely undergo, and probably also a requirement of GDPR.

It's providing strictly more choice and flexibility to their employees and contractors to allow them to host company data on their personal device, the obvious trade-off being made when you install the DLP endpoint software on your phone and grant it permission to remote-wipe your device if necessary.

If the company required their employees/contractors to use their personal device for company business, this would be an entirely different discussion. In California, the employer is required to reimburse employees for using their personally owned device for company business - i.e. required to pay for the cost of a phone and the service plan.

Employees choose not to buy a second phone and get paid for their service plan on their personal phone for convenience, and to save themselves the cost of a personal plan. Some choices are not strictly good, but include pros and cons which are individual's responsibility to weigh.

I think it's a safe assumption that anyone choosing to install the DLP agent on their personal phone, particularly at a company like Google, does so fully informed of the responsibilities that come with that decision.


"But they have no requirement -- and I would argue no business -- to wipe a non-company device just because someone added a corporate email account to it."

Personal devices are excellent attack vectors if allowed on the internal network unmanaged. The alternative is not accessing internal resources, email, etc., unless the employee is given a company-owned device.


I'd genuinely argue that if the company's worried about that, they should either (a) to disallow personal devices on the internal network, period, or (b) find a management solution that does not involve putting data they do not manage at risk. Just as my personal physical property does not become company property if I am on their physical property, my personal data should not become company data if I am on their network. I understand that segregating data that way may be a hard IT problem, but if they can't do it, the solution should not be "welp, we control your data now."

>or take a significant productivity hit and opt-out of mobile email, chat, and docs.

I'd call that a quality of life improvement. Why are contractors required to be available 24/7? I've never experienced that as a contractor, nor would I agree to it.


And this is why I do not have any access to work accounts on my phone.

If it's so important that it must be done during my personal time then my manager can call me and request as much.

Remember pager duty and overtime pay? Doesn't that seem quaint now that many people seem to have accepted that they must make themselves available at all times?


>Remember pager duty and overtime pay? Doesn't that seem quaint now that many people seem to have accepted that they must make themselves available at all times?

I'm too young to remember, but I have a few years of working experience under my belt now. The amount of people that greenlight everything a supposed authority demands of them just baffles my mind. I'm not even mad if a company tries to maximize their gain on the expertise that I bring to the table. That's just the game: You work for what's in your best interest, I work for mine. But when you push back against a perceived worsening of workplace conditions and the people not supporting you are your colleagues, because they somehow see themselves as being on the same side as the boss... I'm kind of sad about the social achievements people are willfully throwing away in the hopes that they themselves will 'make it' one day

And by the way, this is coming from someone who loves his job and has a good relationship with his boss. Doesn't mean I have to be delusional about what's going to happen when push comes to shove


Google does pay employees for time spent on-call outside of normal work hours. On-callers for services with tighter SLOs get payed more.

I put work Slack on my phone, but that's it. Maybe 2FA stuff as needed.

>I put work Slack on my phone

This instantly qualifies you as "available 24/7"


It does. I work remote and off hours, and my phone doesn't blow up to much, so I roll with it for now.

They can freely choose to stay unemployed

Incredibly insightful, thank you. We all know how hard it is to find a programming gig these days.

I'm not convinced you have any knowledge of how things actually work in Google, but my point is that you can give me a ring if something requires immediate attention. If you don't provide a company phone I'm not using mine instead.


Buy a "Google phone" and use it for that, keeping your private phone, well private. It's just the cost of doing business with them.

Unless your job requires work email/calendar while at home I really don't see how having corp access on mobile can be a justification for productivity.

The moment my company announced a requirement for having to install a corp policy enforcement application on my personal phone if I wanted to have access to the corp account (a reasonable request, in terms of company policy/security) was the moment I stopped having corp account on my phone (or any phone for that matter). It's been working fine for years.


Contractors are not expected to work after hours. This is a reasonable stance for the company to take.

Seems like Google isn't leveraging their own tools properly then.

They can make a non-corporate device have a work profile with Google Apps Device Policy, and only that profile will be purged if the device is wiped by a Google Admin.


Even simpler for corps as large as Google is simply having a supply of contractor devices they completely wipe upon the termination of the contract. That's what my last company did.

They didn't require contractors to bring their own computers and phones to the office if they were needed for their work.

I'm sure Google could afford that as well as to manage it...


Google does do that. Lot of misinformation in this thread.

It is a net perk because phone calling or mobile messaging is inevitably part of work and you don't want to buy your own separate phone. It's only awkward for anyone who isn't used to having two phones.

Calling and messaging are paid for by my company, and I can also sign in to my email. They have a program where I can get full access to all work resources, but it’s optional, and I will never sign up for that program, because exactly what’s being discussed here. But I still only have one phone, and they still pay for it, so.

Is the contract in your name and you pay the bill yourself and then expense it? Or is the contract in company's name they get full itemized bill from the carrier? If it is the latter, it sucks.

Android does support a work profile and "two copies of each app", with some limitations. https://developer.android.com/work/managed-profiles

"...or connect their personal device to the corporate network and its management policy..."

I've done this.

You are absolutely right.


It reads to me like she was using her personal phone to access corp, not a corp phone to access personal stuff. They absolutely will wipe your personal phone in that scenario

If the user had the phone configured as a corp phone and was taking photos and did not have Cloud backup enabled to automatically shunt those photos to their personal account, then when the phone is forcefully de-corped, it will try to purge local photo cache (because there's no way to know if photos in local cache were corp-sensitive or not, so the conservative solution is "Burn it all down").

Of course, if the user does have their Cloud backup enabled to automatically shunt photos, they're at risk of using the phone in a work environment and accidentally storing proprietary info in their personal account.

The fact the camera UI doesn't really allow you to choose what account you're snapping photos under makes the whole arrangement lose-lose, and this is a really easy failure mode for a user to find themselves in if they don't see it coming.


And if they did have their cloud backup enabled and it copied over some photos taken for work then wouldn't they immediately be likely in breach of whatever NDA they signed?

Sounds like a lose-lose and I'm a strong believer in that if a company the size and as wealthy as big G wants a contractor to make use of a device to accomplish a task for them, they can provide the device and do what they will to it afterward and then re-purpose it for the next round of business. This isn't a new operational pattern, and I've never experienced otherwise. They don't need to buy new, just keep a supply of devices for contractors.


This happened to me before too, but the phone was wiped by accident by IT. Never again will I trust any corp junk on a personal device.

The device policy is simple. If you add a Corp account to any phone it's subject to device policy, including wipeout after you get fired. It's very obvious when you enroll.

Not so simple, it depends how the MDM/EMM is set-up.

If it's set up to entirely manage the device, then yes it will get fully wiped (we do this for corporate-owned device).

A personal device can access our environment if requested (they have to sign an agreement form, explaining what we can or cannot do) and a work sandbox will be created, in which only the apps installed in this sandbox will have access to corporate data (ex: you'll have a copy of Gmail, Hangouts, Drive, etc in the sandbox).

In the situation of a personal device, a wipe will only remove that sandbox, leaving the personal data untouched.


A girl I used to date had a company phone. She was getting these racy random messages that, what appeared to be, were lewd conversations between two other employees, or two random someones, presumably on the same system. I found that hilarious.

So if you take a photo with the default camera app, is that put into the area that gets wiped, or the area that doesn't?

If photos would be put in the area that doesn't get wiped, any idea what the quote is about?


She likely wasn't using separate work and personal profiles. That's a fairly new innovation. I've been using Android since the first public device was sold and only started doing it with the Samsung S10 5G. Most people just accept company MDM on their personal profiles and install everything in the same place.

This isn't that hard to understand. In order to access corporate email systems, you have two choices generally. Either you use a Corporate Owned device or you use a Personal Device but allow Corporate to do what they want to it.

In either situation, the corp has the ability to remotely wipe the device and enforce other policies on said device.

This should be abundantly clear to anyone who works in Tech.


And to anyone who believes that corporations have a responsibility to protect the data they collect (and should be held civilly, if not even criminally liable for breaches), anything less than having complete control over devices holding corporate data is corporate malfeasance.

Then I wouldn't call it personal phone, strange description from OP/quote. That term indicates to me a phone I own completely, hardware, software and all data like photos.

Same with laptops - if one decides to use work laptop for personal use its their choice at their own risk, but it doesn't become their personal laptop in any meaningful way. Even if hardware would stay after employment ends, every reasonable company would wipe it clean with some deep format & clean image of OS.


[flagged]


Your weirdly aggressive tone aside, I'll just say that I don't work with the smartest of people, but even still, almost everyone here with a company phone does choose to keep a separate private phone, namely due to perfectly valid policies like the one being discussed. She chose not to, and while she is a victim, it's only by her own choosing, so she is definitely solely to blame.

Yes, they did choose. It's a very voluntary and conscious decision to say "I am going to use my corporate device for personal needs, too."

Google provides a number of things. Food, showers, vehicles, lockers. You may CHOOSE to use these things or you may CHOOSE not to.

If you CHOOSE to store all your personal docs on your work laptop, and the laptop goes up in flames, who do you blame then?

Victim shaming is one thing, but being a naive child is another. A wise, rational, level-headed adult understands that company-owned assets are not suitable for personal use. Period.


And this is a case where the choice wasn't coercive--the alternative is carrying two phones and paying $60 per month for a personal plan.

Who says you have to spend so much when affordable $15 a month prepaid plans exist? (and thats unlimited talk/text and 3GB of data) Cheap personal phone and plan. Problem solved.

It's 1950 and you get a company issued wallet. They expect it back, and all it's contents, if you leave for any reason. You work for a few years, and to make life a little more pleasant you put a picture of your mom in the wallet. And then one day, unexpectedly, you're fired. And your boss says, "Give me the wallet, now." You hand it over, and then remember the photo. You ask for it. Then your boss says, "No. We keep the wallet and it's contents. You agreed to that. Now get out."

Tell me, how is this situation different?


Because even back then, in simpler times, only a simpleton would discard the personal wallet they had prior to taking the job and exclusively use the company-issued wallet.

Did you put that picture in, knowing full well that the company will take the wallet and contents?

Who doesn’t know that using a company device for personal use is a bad idea? We aren’t talking about a Luddite here.

It’s made very clear when you enroll in MDM what the implications are. If we can’t trust tech people to own decisions like this than how do we expect tech illiterate to understand. These are software engineers at Google, not someone’s grandma who did what the cell phone guy at the mall said to do. Come on.

See https://twitter.com/lizthegrey/status/1198346989286690816 and https://twitter.com/lizthegrey/status/1198345256678445057 (for context, Liz is also ex-Google and was an outspoken internal activist at Google, and now happens to be a G Suite admin at her new employer).

I believe that on newer Android devices, the option is to wipe your work profile only, but on devices that don't support it, yes, MDM lets you wipe the entire phone. My own employer just rolled out an MDM option that gives them the ability to wipe my personal phone (this is my personal iPhone, acquired before I joined the company, not a corporate perk or anything) in exchange for being able to use native apps like Slack instead of doing everything inside a work-specific specialized browser. I'm steadfastly refusing to install it, and I'm on the older config with the work-specific app until it stops working.


If you keep important photos on your phone and don't back them up, the brutal truth is -- it's your fault if you lose them.

She could have just as easily lost her phone in a car, or had it break. So this seems entirely irrelevant.

And yes, of course Google wiped her phone: if you're not actively working there, you're not allowed to have access to your past business emails that have been cached, photos of whiteboard drawings you took at the end of meetings, offline copies of strategic Docs, Sheets, and Slides, etc. and other resources that are stored on your phone.

If you use the same device for work and personal, this is just what happens.


If it's expected you back up your photos, and it's expected that when fired all your whiteboard photos are wiped remotely, does that not also imply your photo backups should be remotely wiped? After all, you might have backed up a whiteboard photo.

Good point... now I kind of hope thus escalates to Google itself for never deleting data and having trade secrets

>I've never understood why phone makers make this possible for non-device-owners

They don't. You need to adjust your frame of reference to who is the "device owner" here.

The history to this is that smart phones were originally bought by employers who were concerned about the security of their data on said phones. Or at least concerned enough for BB to upsell them on the capability to remote wipe. In Enterprise IT sales you tend to evolve a bewilderingly large set of marginally useful features because each one was used to clinch some large sale over time. Remote wipe would have been one of these.

Fast forward to the introduction of "consumer" smart phones (first WM5, then iPhone 1.0, Nokia S60, ...) those guys entered a market already dominated by BB with the aforementioned huge set of Enterprise features. In order to make inroads into the market, they implemented a subset of the BB feature set. Remote wipe was in that subset. This is because for a period in history you couldn't sell a phone to businesses if it didn't have remote wipe.

The last evolutionary stage was when people mostly started to own their own devices: users wanted the convenience of carrying just one device while Enterprises wanted to keep as many of their vast set of features as they could. The compromise was that device vendors shipped the phones with remote wipe disabled, however if the device is connected to an enterprise data source (e.g. via Active Sync), then it is programmed to ask the user to opt in to remote wipe. The choice is between : you get Enterprise data on your phone and also allow the Enterprise to remote wipe; or you pound sand.

Separating "personal data" from "Enterprise data" was a final tweak on this arrangement, although it wouldn't surprise me if devices have a hard time supporting "don't wipe personal data" since the wiping is done by discarding a volume encryption key (for performance reasons -- you don't want to take 5 min to wipe the device while a hax0r is also trying to exfil the data).

Of course from the present day perspective this all looks very odd, but it came about through a series of quite logical steps, like how you make a Duck-Billed Platypus..

Source: I was involved with implementing remote wipe (server side) for all the various phones though this epoch.


All my stuff is backed up off my phone anyway, so I would only be mildly annoyed if my employer wiped it. I'm glad they have the capability, because otherwise they'd require me to carry a separate work phone, which would be super annoying.

As to the ethical question, under some ethical systems, voluntary agreements without coercion are by-default ethical. My employer doesn't force me to install a work profile. They're happy to supply me with a separate phone if need be. But I voluntarily take on that risk for the convenience.


I gave up on having my work accounts on my phone. I just don't check work emails or messages on the weekend or at lunch. If anything actually urgent comes up, they have my phone number and can call or text me.

This was mostly out of laziness; I have relatively low patience for doing lots of fiddly configuration on a new device, and don't like the bother of setting up a second account on my phone whenever I get a new one. The only real downside is when I go to a meeting, forget which room I was going to, and need to get out a laptop or go back to my desk to figure out where I was going.

But it's done wonders for my work-life balance and just not thinking about my job when I'm not actually working.


I use a workspace/sandbox for my work app on a personal device, and it works quite well. The only feature I wish was available would be to schedule access to the sandbox, for example turning it off after my work hours, and turning it back on in the morning.

That would reduce the amount of notifications I get from work after-hours. I still don't check them, but having them out of sight would be nice.


Really? A second phone is awesome. Pretty big fan of compartmentalization of business/private, even if i am not a heavy phone user and not prone to change employers much.

But I do have my own phone anyway. We even have a separate wireless network for private devices and guests that is not subjected to any filtering or security screening. All that is really worth having 2 devices in my opinion.

There are also a lot of security benefits if work phones are only used for specific tasks and are locked down as much as possible.


I guess I just don't see much downside to putting both on the same device. I have trouble picturing a situation where I'm significantly worse off because of the path I've chosen compared to having two devices. The 99% worst case scenario is something like what happened to the person who was fired: my phone gets wiped when I didn't want it to be. Ah, well. With Android's backup capabilities, it takes me about an hour to be back to normal from a completely wiped device. I've wiped my device voluntarily just to give it unlocked to a repair person. It would not be that much worse to have to recover it involuntarily. The 99.9999% worst case scenario is that my employer is monitoring my private communications for some sinister reason, but I consider that pretty unlikely. I just can't see a way that would benefit them, and I'm not sure they even have the capability in the first place -- compartmentalization is what work profiles are for.

On the other hand, having to manage two devices would be a daily tax. So, yeah, I'm happy with my choice, but I'm happy to accept more information if you have other things I've not thought of.


Monitoring personal communications benefits them if they're concerned that you might be sharing company secrets. The work profile gives them the ability to remotely install apps, so they have pretty wide latitude to take advantage of any vulnerabilities on your phone.

Imagine having time off from work, leaving your work phone off/at home, but still able to check online topo maps/restaurants/flights/weather/connect with people with your normal phone.

It can be annoying, or not. Depends a lot on personality, type of work, boss etc.


I mute my work chat when I am on vacation and I never have email notification for work emails anyway. Having a separate phone wouldn't really move the needle on that, at least for me.

With a work profile on Android, I can temporarily disable all of my work account stuff with the push of a button. It may not be as physically satisfying as throwing the phone in the bottom of a drawer for a week, but the vacation experience is the same.

Android supports clear isolation between work and personal profiles, so you don't need to lug around two phones just so you can have your separation. Unfortunately it seems that said people used iOS which doesn't allow that.

>I'm glad they have the capability, because otherwise they'd require me to carry a separate work phone, which would be super annoying.

A lot of people have a phone for work separate from their personal phone...Still, there is a perfectly reasonable middle ground, Google could have requested the employee backup the phone before wiping it since they knew or had reason to know there was personal data on the phone.


You are glad your employer has deep access into your personal phone?

Yes, that is indeed what I said. I even explained the tradeoffs and why they are acceptable to me. Was something unclear?

I'm just trying to understand the world we live in. Your position is the opposite of mine. It's so far the opposite that I had trouble believing what I was reading but it's valid so sorry if you to feel like my question was a personal attack.

I have trouble understanding why people get so worked up about it. I don't know what you people use your phones for, but all of my activities are incredibly boring. And the idea that my personal activity or data would be worth the effort to my employer, enough that they actually implement whatever they'd have to implement to snoop on me, is laughable.

I also don't freak out if there's a window open in my bedroom when I'm changing. The chances are small anyone wants to take a peek, and if they do it's not much skin off my back.

So, maybe there are just different kinds of people? The kind that irrationally think everyone is interested in snooping on them, and the kind who have more important things to worry about.


Go ask the ceo of your company for unfettered access to his personal phone and see what he says.

Keep a personal and work phone separate.

Yes, Google should require personal and work phones to be separate. But in practice they encourage them to be the same device.

Not true. There is no pressure to use a "corp phone" as your main device. It's not even hinted.

Bullshit. It's a benefit and to think otherwise is obtuse.

Anyone smart enough to be a technical employee at Google is smart enough to know that there's zero social pressure to just have a single device.

Where did I say there was social pressure? I was pretty sure I was explicit about it being a benefit. Phone and phone plans are possibly worth $1k/year

The claim is that Google wiped her personal phone.

Furthermore, companies like Google have worked hard to blur the lines between their employees' personal and professional lives. I'm not particularly sympathetic to them suddenly drawing hard boundaries when it benefits them.


When you add a GSuite account to your android phone, you have 2 options: (1) Add it so it as full access to the device, or (2) use "Work profile" when adding it.

(2) https://support.google.com/work/android/answer/6191949?hl=en

If it was added with option (1), the GSuite owner can wipe your entire phone. With (2), I believe only the work profile can be wiped.

If it was an iPhone, I'm not sure the controls for managed devices (I don't think it has a work profile type isolation).


Yup, there's no such thing as work profiles on iOS, and iOS MDM does have the technical facility to let an MDM owner wipe the device. (Obviously the user has to consent to it, but there's a lot of social pressure to say yes / to trust that your employer won't abuse this ability.)

Also I think that there are Android models that don't support a separate work profile.


The only way that's possible is if the employee agreed to it.

Employees are pressured to agree to many things by their employers.

It's pretty easy to say 'no, I will not connect my personal phone to the corporate network in exchange for allowing my employer to remotely manage my personal phone'.

Get a second company phone like anyone with a sliver of opsec intelligence does.


No, I'd rather blame the world for my ignorance and expect them to pick up the tab on that bill. /s

Many years ago ago, at my first tech job, the employer provided a smart phone as part of work/on call responsibilities. (This was still around the era when smart phones were just blossoming as useful devices). Every other employee there decided to use their company phone as both their personal and professional device, while I opted out for what are very obvious reasons. I had my phone and I had the company phone; the latter was only on my person when professionally necessary.

It was common sense then, and it's common sense now. You always keep professional and personal assets separate.

(Fun fact worth noting: not too long ago the company decided to either boot personal usage of company devices, or stop providing those phones altogether. Can't say that I didn't warn them.)


Might be a good time to check your phones / tablets to make sure there’s no mdm profile setup that maybe you didn’t realize got installed.

Wouldn't erasing her personal phone be a felony?

Not if she consented to allowing her employer to do so.

My own employer has us sign an additional document (an addendum to my employment agreement) to get email/calendaring on our personal devices.

(Also my employer is in a regulated industry - trading - where if we talk about work-related stuff on personal devices that don't go through work's logging proxy, the SEC can start digging through my personal text messages in an investigation, in some fashion. I don't know precisely how this works legally, and I hope to never find out.)


If you did it, perhaps. If a corporation did it, unlikely. The law isn't applied equally, and companies aren't often subject anyway.

That's why Wells Fargo can literally break into random people's home, destroy every possession they have, and get zero criminal charges[0].

[0] https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wells-fargo-mistakes-home-ne...


Indeed, one also has to install a root CA at Google to use the device for work. No thanks.

Definitely untrue.

+1, untrue

As a programmer, it's interesting to view organizational structure and culture through the lens of software design. Specifically, how Google's culture and organization is so radically different from Amazon's.

Amazon genuinely tries to embody the Unix philosophy. Two pizza teams that have ownership over their slice of the company, and get to decide how their team/org should operate. As a individual contributor at Amazon, there is zero expectation that you'll have unrestricted visibility into what other organizations are doing.

Google in contrast, breaks every rule in software design. There is no information hiding - everyone can see everything else. Decisions aren't made locally by the team in question - they are made centrally by people you will never see. Or by a mob of random employees who have made it their hobby to lobby against your plans. As a team manager, you cannot even decide which members of your team can check in changes into the (mono) repository - you have to get approval from someone who has been certified by the "readability team", and they have almost year-long waits to get certified.

Amazon is microservices and Google is the majestic monolith.

The Google approach works great at smaller sizes, but as the organization grows in size and complexity, I don't think the monolith approach can still work. I'd wager that is exactly the growing pains they are now going through.


I figure others would be curious about Google's side of it. Who is right or wrong doesn't seem obvious to me. Apparently this is a memo about why these workers were fired[0]:

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

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

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

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

> We have always taken information security very seriously, and will not tolerate efforts to intimidate Googlers or undermine their work, nor actions that lead to the leak of sensitive business or customer information. This is not how Google’s open culture works or was ever intended to work. We expect every member of our community to abide by our data security policies.

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

[0] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-25/google-fi...


As someone who worked at Google I'd like to clarify this corporate speak & I'm really disappointed as I thought Google had higher standards.

Google has traditionally embraced an open culture so accessing documents outside the scope of your job has traditionally been totally fine & is the stated reason why every full time employee is considered an insider for trading purposes, with legal restrictions imposed on when you can trade.

'm guessing from memory (& this would be from before my time so ex-Googlers with a better memory please remind me), but the data policy was introduced to deal with SREs looking at customer data they weren't supposed to, not about the work product of coworkers.

In terms of people's calendars I'm totally confused - it's super-easy to change sharing permissions even on a per event level. Sounds like it's a pretext - the reasonable approach would be A) Improve training about the available privacy settings B) Improve Google Calendar to make it easier to manage those privacy settings since I'm sure other workplaces have a similar problem.

So the calendar stalking is the bigger problem I think on the part of the fired employees but the "accessing documents outside the scope of their jobs" is total BS. The leaking "sensitive business or customer information" seems like pure FUD - seems like a lawyer-approved way to slander about what happened.

I'm really curious whose calendars were accessed "inappropriately" and who reported feeling threatened. Moreover just accessing a calendar is not something you're notified about so that would indicate this is either BS on Google's part or these people were doing a bit of active stalking on the side. Could come out that everyone is the asshole in this story but given how bad management/labor relations have gone under Sundar, I'd wager that Google is definitely engaging in really shady shit on their own here.


Earlier this year Google e-mailed all employees and noted that accessing docs outside the scope of your job responsibility is forbidden and a fire-able offense. I think this policy change marked the end of the open culture you speak of.

Whether this was a legitimate policy change or a change simply made to find reasons to fire activists, I don't know. But, it was made clear many months ago that digging around to access docs outside your spec could result in a firing.


> Whether this was a legitimate policy change or a change simply made to find reasons to fire activists, I don't know.

From the outside it seems like a very legitimate policy change. If my co-workers are stalking my calendar to find meetings they politically disagree with so they can pressure me and/or leak it to the press, well that's super creepy. I think this is a perfect example of why "full transparency" can actually be conducive to a toxic working environment.

Even if it wasn't formally against the rules the intent behind that type of stalking should get anyone who engages in it fired. It's literally harassment. I think Google's change in policy is for the best here as it codifies common sense.


As an aside, can you explain what a meeting someone might "politically disagree with" is, and how you could have such a meeting without bringing politics into the workplaces?

More on topic, I'll note that nowhere did anyone use the word "politics" except you.


From the article:

> Rivers had said she was being targeted for protesting against U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is testing a Google cloud product. Berland was active in protests against YouTube for its handling of hate speech policies.

As others have stated in this thread, they were apparently policing people's meetings around these topics. If you don't like your company's legal clients, quit. Do not stalk your co-workers, harass them and leak info about them to the press.


That's not correct. Rivers wasn't fired for anything related to calenders or meetings.

None of the four employees in question have been accused of leaking anything to the press.

Google's statement insinuates many things that aren't actually true.


> Google's statement insinuates many things that aren't actually true.

Do you have any sources that back that statement up? Google's accusations are very explicit about what these people were doing:

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


Read carefully.

The leaking was not explicitly blamed on the people that were fired.


Yes it is, from the Google statement:

> We want to be clear that none of these individuals were fired for simply looking at documents or calendars during the ordinary course of their work.

> To the contrary, our thorough investigation found the individuals were involved in systematic searches for other employees’ materials and work [...] This information, along with details of internal emails and inaccurate descriptions about Googlers’ work, was subsequently shared externally.


The passive voice of "was subsequently shared externally" does not apply to the object of the earlier sentence ("these individuals"). If the individuals were actually the leakers, Google could have used a more direct and natural wording, like

"These individuals subsequently leaked some of this material."

But the statement doesn't use this very natural wording, it uses a strange, highly passive, construction. One is left to wonder why. To be fair, you're not the only person who fell for this trick, I know a lot of very smart people who didn't notice this until it was pointed out, but it is a trick.

Edit: replying to your other comment, You're asking me to prove a negative, that these individuals didn't leak anything. Why should I do that when they haven't even been explicitly accused of having leaked something? No one, not the employees, and not google, as claimed they leaked anything. Google claimed that some stuff was leaked. This is true. And yes, its hard to read Google's statement and come to that conclusion. That's intentional it was worded the way it was very carefully. That's the point. They're being duplicitous.


I'm not asking you to prove a negative though, I'm asking if you have any proof that what Google says is untrue since you say that it is. Using a passive voice doesn't mean that it's untrue, I actually find the Google wording to be more natural than your version.

Is there anything beyond the semantics of the Google statement that makes you feel that it's false?


> I'm asking if you have any proof that what Google says is untrue since you say that it is

To be clear, I believe that everything Google has actually stated is factual. You're just drawing wrong conclusions from partial information. So in one sense, no, because Google hasn't lied. I don't have any proof that I could share. But yes, I have strong reasons to believe the things I'm stating.

As an aside, are you a native English speaker? There's some very interesting cultural aspects when assigning blame. In American English, its the norm to assign blame directly "John leaked the documents.", whereas in other cultures/languages, a passive structure is more common "John had the documents. The documents were leaked." This would be a common and correct way of blaming John for leaking something in some cultures, but in English it isn't.

Presumably Google and its lawyers are primarily English speakers.


I am a native English speaker, I just find the original statement to be more natural and less forced.

Out of curiosity if you think that the statement is true, but constructed in a way that hides information, what do you think actually happened? If I understand your position it looks something like this:

1. The four people mentioned setup watches on people's calendars, went looking for information on people... the targets of their searches weren't part of their every day work life.

2. They shared that information with someone (no one knows who) but not the press or externally.

3. The people who had the information shared with them then leaked it externally.

4. Google found out and fired the original four people from step 1 and wrote a memo deliberately masking step 2.

It's possible the above is accurate (please let me know if I got your position incorrect), but I don't think the wording of Google's announcement alone is enough to prove that. I'm apt to take it at its face value, especially because step 1 is by far the worst part in my mind and that doesn't seem to be in doubt.

That's why I'm curious if you have some inside knowledge or something (your bio says you work at Google).


Note that you set up a watch of someones calendar just by looking it up, so it is very easy to accidentally watch a lot of calendars. I wouldn't read too much into that statement.

Maybe so, but the Google statement does say that the employees in question did all of this in a systematic way that was outside the scope of their job responsibilities. I'd actually like to know a lot more about step 1, I suspect it holds the key to figuring out what's going on.

I feel like they got very little, since they focused so much effort demonizing this calendar watching. I can understand when they say that you shouldn't share photographs of others calendars or harass them over calendars, but I don't see why viewing others calendars is a bad thing itself. It is kinda like looking at their code or commits, you can see what they do and how they work, it is very useful if you intend to transfer or just wonder how other teams are doing things.

Semantics matter, since we're now at the phase of the process where legal counsel would be involved drafting these statements (even if they're internally targeted, because Google knows its internal confidential broadcasts to employees will be leaked).

This statement was written by very well paid professionals, they wouldn't make a vague statement like that if they knew for a fact that these people leaked the material.

> Google's accusations are very explicit about what these people were doing:

Are they? If you can quote for me where Google actually states these people leaked material, I'll concede the point, but they don't. Google says two things:

1. These four individuals searched for information that was outside of their job scope

2. Information these individuals searched for (along with other information) was shared externally

They don't claim that the individuals that did 1 also did 2, in fact the statement is carefully worded to not make that claim, but to still heavily imply it. The untrue (or at least, unsubstantiated) insinuation in this case is that any of these people leaked things to the press.


I think it's extremely difficult to read Google's statement and come to this conclusion. Again, do you have any evidence to suggest that what your saying is true? Do you know that the people who did the information gathering didn't do the leaking? If there's a source that states that, I'd love to read it.

> Do you know that the people who did the information gathering didn't do the leaking?

Were this criminal court, the burden of proof would be on Google to show that people who did the information gathering did do the leaking.

This is, of course, the court of public opinion, so one's own biases will come into play on who one assumes is telling the truth. But Google's internal statement (at least, what of it we've seen) doesn't connect the dots tightly enough to eliminate reasonable doubt.


The way it reads to me is that Google wanted to find a reason to fire these people and found the data thing to be a convenient and plausible excuse.

To me it reads like:

"Hey, I guess we didn't think we needed to make it explicit that you shouldn't stalk, leak about, or facilitate harassment of your colleagues because they're working on projects with which you have personal objections. Let's now be clear that's not OK; these people just got fired for it and now we're going to make bright lines around that type of conduct to be clearer about the company we are."


"Stalking", "leaking", and "harassing" are all very loaded and subjective terms, and I don't trust any party who wants to lean on them as a substitute for facts.

Setting up alerts around a co-worker's calendar that you're not actually meeting with is definitely stalking. Would you want someone doing that to you?

"Setting up alerts" is an overstatement, all you do is press "add calemdar" to view it and then it also sets up alerts automatically. I've done this a lot since I want to see what people are working on etc and adding their calendars is the easiest way to view a calendar, and I don't see why anyone doing it to me would be a problem. Maybe I just misunderstood the UI though, but I'd be very upset if I was fired just because calendar UI confused me... It is kinda like people looking at each others code commits to see how their work or what they work on. It is a part of having an open company culture.

I wouldn't put anything in my organization's calendar that I wasn't okay being broadcast to the entire organization. Certainly not my medical appointments or other sensitive personal things. Otherwise, who cares if somebody wants an alert that I have a meeting? That's why the feature exists.

> Otherwise, who cares if somebody wants an alert that I have a meeting?

I would care if the person doing this then leaked my meeting information and tried to use my meetings for political gain.


Are there details for what exactly was leaked? I don't mean to imply that you're wrong if you can't produce a list, and I agree that leaking another person's meeting information to the public is a plausibly fireable offense. I just can't find confirmation that that's what happened in this case, and the clearest details I can find seem to talk about 'leaks' and 'calendar access' as separate incidents.

Bloomberg article for example: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-12/one-googl...

"A Google spokeswoman said the company is investigating the employees who were placed on leave. One of them had searched for and shared confidential documents outside the scope of their job, while the other tracked the individual calendars of staff working in the community platforms, human resources, and communications teams, she said. The tracking had made the staff in those departments feel unsafe, the spokeswoman said."


Feel free to substitute whatever terms feel appropriate. Google management reports some of the targets of the activity "felt scared or unsafe, and requested to work from another location".

Please. Nobody is unsafe at their cushy office job because somebody looked at their calendar. Those words are cheapened every time they are wielded as political weapons.

The restriction on viewing and disseminating internal corporate information (not user PII, but design documents and plans) outside of one's field of responsibility is new, and there was wide concern internally that it looked like setup for this type of "you don't agree with another team and are throwing same in the wheels by adding inconvenient questions; get fired" arrangement.

Having blackout dates for employees buying and selling stock is something every company I’ve worked for has enforced. It doesn’t have anything to do with the open documents policy

I honestly find it difficult-to-impossible to trust Google’s side of any employment dispute considering how happy they were to fix wages for years: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-requires-s...

> 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.

IMO, this is grey behavior. Certainly stalking people is creepy. But how is this different from accessing any other web page that isn't behind a security boundary?

This is at least partially a Calendar problem. Its difficult to set up G Calendar to keep personal appointments private without lots of manual intervention.


I think the part that keeps being missed is that (according to Google) they then took this info and shared it outside the company. That's where the line was crossed. I may have a Dr appt on my work calendar because I trust my colleagues, but that doesn't mean that I want it sent externally.

Has Google actually claimed that these employees are the ones that leaked the information? The statements I've read, including the one above, do not explicitly say this. Rather, they say that some of the easily accessible information those employees looked at was leaked.

Either Google has proof that it was the fired employees and are being weirdly vague about it, or they don't actually know that it was them. If it's the latter, that is extremely scummy on Google's part to heavily imply it was those employees without proof.


Sharing screenshots of the calendar contents outside the company is obviously problematic. But whether or not the initial calendar access itself is problematic is much less obvious in my opinion.

I think it's all about intent (that's how I'd judge it as a manager anyway). Were people accessing their co-worker's calendars to help schedule a meeting or were they doing it to harass and coerce them? The former is obviously fine and the later is obviously a serious issue that someone should be fired for.

Sure, and it’s also not illegal to sit across the road from your house and take a picture every time you leave or get back.

Personal privacy is not the same as corporate privacy.

An individual's work day being monitored and leaked is definitely personal privacy. It's not like some new Android leaked, these violations were directed against specific people and aspects of their lives were leaked to outside parties.

Right, but consider the source of the information we're seeing here. Google is not in a position where they're encouraged to spin this story in a positive light for the employees in question.

The calendar notification feature does not discriminate, but it also doesn't automatically leak data to an external source. So if, hypothetically, one believed a coworker was involved with a project the company was trying to keep hushed up (such as a search engine built conforming to the design constraints of the Chinese government, or an object recognition tool for military applications), one could keep an eye on the evolution of that project by turning on calendar notifications and observing what meetings that coworker is invited to. But if that coworker also puts "Doctor's appointment" on their work calendar, the observer will of course be notified about that also if the event is made (internal) public.

Now, once the observer is notified, they may have chosen to leak to an external source "Hey, a name-notable VP appears to be having a meeting on Thursday titled 'PROJECT: DEFINITELY NOT FACILITATING CHINESE CENSORSHIP'." That doesn't imply they chose to then leak "And they have a doctor's appointment Friday."

Google has made the claim the individual in question set up notifications, and those notifications may have caught medical appointments and family activites. Google has made the separate claim that some information was leaked externally. Google has notably not made the claim that doctor's appointments, family activities, etc. were leaked externally.

... and the privacy concerns we honor for people's personal lives do not necessarily extend to the work they're quietly doing on things the public may find unacceptable.


It doesn't matter if it's family appointments or work appointments. Keeping tabs on someone like that is a violation of personal privacy.

We'll have to agree to disagree that a person's personal privacy protection should categorically extend to whether they're helping build the next generation of drone warfare target-acquisition software.

I think you're making an "ends justify the means" argument, and I'm not buying it.

Or perhaps to help build vaccines, should one be opposed on personal preferences to vaccinations.

See the slippery slope there?


Is someone violating FDA law while building the vaccines? If so, we should know about it and protect a person's right to build a paper trail.

Building vaccines is unlikely to be an activity in violation of the law; exporting algorithms to China is far more delicate.

We protect whistleblowers for a reason.


The algorithm export bit was pioneered by EFF In https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/04/remembering-case-estab...

Encryption protocols are no longer classified as "munitions."

Software is, however, still regulated by export control (https://www.millercanfield.com/resources-alerts-845.html). This is currently a hot topic, as China has used facial recognition software in ongoing persecution of the Uighur minority. The US government responded by blacklisting several Chinese firms, and selling software to those firms could land an individual in jail (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/08/business/china-human-righ...).

I'm not saying Google did anything illegal in its liaison with the Chinese government to build out a search engine to their specifications. But it is exactly the sort of business venture that needs to be carefully monitored and that whistleblower protections are intended to guard.


Anyone who has done even a little bit of labor organizing knows that getting contact information for your co-workers is the first step in forming any kind of worker organization. It's not illegal, but companies go to great lengths to prevent workers from accessing that data on a large scale if they can. This might seem like Google isn't doing anything explicitly anti-worker here, but in reality this is union-busting 101 cloaked in corporate speak.

IMO it is all about intent. Did you check your colleagues' calendar to improve work, or did you check your colleagues' agenda to further identity politics?

In this case, the intent seemed to be: to stalk political opponents. Unacceptable abuse of the open culture.

Most reporting and discussions I've seen about this, pose the firing as union-busting behavior by Google. I also disagree there. Just because it took aim at people wanting to organize and rally for their cause, does not mean their cause was the motivation. To me, it means these people took their cause too far, mixed it with work, and publicly attacked the decisions of their colleagues, because these were perceived as homophobic. Just because you are an LGBT+ in reliability engineering, does not mean you get to raise a fuzz anytime Youtube makes a (better informed, less biased) decision you don't agree with. That gets tedious and detrimental to work relations very fast.


The public may learn more as the cases hit the courts. If Google claims they fired the employees for reasons other than union-busting, there will be evidence to present from both sides.

Well, if an employee can access that data then they can access it. The whole point of Google calendars is that they are wide open, so I find it hard to believe that Google has always taken information security very seriously.

Google takes the view that its employees are all responsible adults, who can be trusted to handle information responsibly without using it to harass people or leaking it to journalists. Activists have made a concentrated effort to subvert this, and it may well be that it's not true anymore, but up until a few years ago it worked pretty well.

>Well, if an employee can access that data then they can access it.

Yes; but just because an employee can access data doesn't mean that they can just do anything they like with it, does it?

The complaint from Google seems to be that access was used to harass, leak personal information and surveil the actions of other employees.

If that's true, then "well, you gave me access" doesn't seem like a strong defense.


Yes, the memo from Google makes it seem that, however they don't just come out and say it clearly... probably because they can't, or can't yet, confirm who leaked what if anything.

An interesting question for Google to answer would be how many Google employees have accessed/crawled all the internal data. Considering the sort of talent, curiosity, and technical skills that Google hires I would expect that the four fired workers are not unique in that regard.


They imply it. Perhaps they can show that the crawled data matches exactly the leak, but they can't find the smoking gun among these 4 - the twin robbers paradox.

I would think calendar impl is a separate issue from monitoring data access security and than responding to violations by informing the employee that they are violations you are conflating the two issues

If that is the case, this ought to be an entertaining lawsuit. The usual reasons for retaliatory firing are much less tangible.

This should be interesting.

Maybe they’re both guilty of wrongdoing. In the end it’ll likely be difficult for them to prevail over Google.

Plus, as many people have said over and over, leave your politics at home, despite this “bring your whole self to work”. It just opens you up to more scrutiny. Of course google is to blame for fostering this attitude. I’m sure they regret their initial idealism and realize you simply cannot mould people into your vision any more than a few societies have tried and failed at raising the perfect citizen.

To be clear, there is a right to unionize. There isn’t a right to politicize work and bring your personal politics into the work realm.

I don’t want to hear your take on 1A, 2A, reproductive rights, medical rights, whatever, at work unless it’s a conversation we volunteer to enjoin in.


Life is political. "Leave your politics at home" has been a driver of injustice and war crimes for ages. "I don't think we should murder Jews" was political speech and verboden in the Reich.

Work is the most significant part of our lives in terms of how much time it requires. It's a give and take - you can ask for concessions from your employer just as they can ask for concessions from you. It's not just "accept everyone and everything exactly as it was before", that's ludicrous.

And unionizing has been made political by corporations - it's simply a smart and legally protected right to improve workers' negotiation power in the face of huge corporations.

Hiring women and racial minorities at all, and then to particular positions, was a political issue for a long time. It still is, in many places and companies in the world (hiring a woman or minority to positions could get you killed). The idea that politics and people and corporations are not intimately intertwined is a reflection of privilege.


The fact that so many accept the maxim "life is political" is terrifying. Life is not political but we can imagine a life that is political and I doubt that kind of life is worth living.

Politics is necessary to structure the relations between people. But that doesn't mean that politics pervades every corner of life. You might as well argue that "life is about water" because we can't do without water.

I'm not saying that your kulturkritik perspective is without any value. It has value. But there are other perspectives that also have value, and you should seek them out. If you don't, you'll only have one perspective, which is an ideology. Ideological people do bizarre things like spying on their coworkers and then playing the victim when they get fired.


Politics is the negotiation of power, and the degree to which power is not relevant in your life is the degree to which politics is irrelevant. As for water politics, water is a matter of power and it's scary. But refusing to discuss the relationship between power and water does not make things any more or less ideological.

The failure to discuss power doesn't make things any more or less political, either. It just makes you mute.


The degree to which you reduce everything to power is the degree to which you impair your ability to think and speak. This is because thought and speech are faculties based on the ability to draw distinctions between things. In exchange for voluntarily diminishing your capacity to think and speak, you receive a one note answer to everything: "blah blah blah power blah blah privilege".

Some people's vision are the stuff of moral leadership, and others are the stuff of moral complacency. Some people make progress like Lawrence v Texas, and other people say "blah blah privilege, I'm so tired of hearing this stuff." But it's hard to believe they are the same person in one. One wonders whether you would hope that those who are suffering stop their shrillness because you are really tired of hearing about the blah blah privilege.

But from the outside perspective, America's democracy looks complacent. It appears as if a major aspect of the American political game is wondering whether black people or Latinos are going to vote more. What a game. There's a nasty smell here, and one wonders the degree to which people might carry on amid that nasty smell because they are so very tired of the blah blah.

America already has a culture of avoiding political talk in person. Is it working? Does American democracy smell healthier than ever?


And if second gen Latin Americans vote more conservatively and if more blacks start voting conservatively is that a good of a bad thing? (Compared to how they voted for people who are now lauded in the press and by Obama as good conservatives like Bush and Romney)

What does that have to do with the failure to discuss politics in American democracy? The norm of being politically mute in person?

Everyone should be voting. If everyone voted, people might have to start talking about black futures.


> But that doesn't mean that politics pervades every corner of life.

But it does, whether we like it or not. Everything from the media we consume, to the drugs we take, to how we expect our significant others to behave in a relationship, to what software we use - is political in one form or another. The politics isn't always national or party politics, though. For example, software freedom is a very strong and popular political goal among technologists, and because of that, proprietary software is political. The fact that some people are ignorant of that fact doesn't change it.

And "having one perspective" alone does not constitute ideology. Most people are extremely ideological; people forget that just because an ideology seems natural or is normal, it doesn't mean it ceases to be an ideology. Belief in the democratic state is ideology, freedom of speech is ideology, the US Constitution is ideology, the democratic process is ideology, the culture propagated in daily life is ideology. I think Althusser and Lefevbre made a very good point about how ideology reproduces itself and how everyday life is subsumed into ideological functions of the workplace or the state. Culture, like anything else, must reproduce itself, a dead culture is one that failed to reproduce itself. Within this reproduction we are making all kinds of choices (conscious or not) to keep certain elements of our society in moving forward.


Maybe you do want to think about the power relationship with parents and siblings and coworkers as things happen and as conversations take place. I don’t.

There may come times when I think this or that sibling is favored or given the short shrift, but not in every single interaction.

As Zizek asks, what do you do the day after the revolution?

Most people just want to go about their daily business. Most people don’t want to have on going never ending political processes like some revolutionaries do, just because they can’t abandon that mode.


I agree, "being political" as in defending and fighting for what is right comes at a cost and people (or companies) have other priorities as well. But be aware those wanting to move away from what we consider right will be thankful for our inaction.

Thing is, waiting usually makes problems worse. Divisiveness seems on a recent all time high already, and two political extremes won't just cancel each other making everything go back to normal. One of them will probably just win. That's how it went prior to the Reich, at least.

So yeah, increasing divisiveness makes defending the good parts of our current societies require more and more effort. Had we not let it get to were we are now we would have required a lot less "being political". Waiting will likely make it worse down the line.

Yes, politics is a never ending process. Since there will always be rules needing to be revised and people trying to use that processes to gain power. Again, allowing this to happen initially and undoing so later will require us to pay extra.

But yeah, obviously most people just want to live their lives not having to spend their valuable time (and more) on politics. Doesn't mean this is a great move. Even more so in times were shit is about to hit the fan.


> Maybe you do want to think about the power relationship with parents and siblings and coworkers as things happen and as conversations take place. I don’t.

Me neither. But being critical and analysing our desires and interests should be the supreme goal of any self-reflecting person. It is possible to enjoy media and relationships while being aware of what drives you to make certain choices, and importantly, what drives others to make choices. Why is your culture the way it is?

The fact that "everything is political" (a phrase I try to avoid using because of its ignorant lack of nuance) does not mean we have to constantly think about it. Climate change activists will use buses, Marx still got Capital published through a publishing company, and I still watch porn sometimes. The point is to be aware and critical about what you do, not necessarily while you do it.


Sure life is political. We can have protests, vote for candidates, engage in civil disobedience and all that.

What I don’t want is anyone making it a point to bring their personal politics to work. We have other forums for that.

Don’t politicize every part of our existence. I wanna go to work and provide some productivity to my employer. If I don’t like their politics I can vote at the ballot box, donate to causes, volunteer etc. I don’t need to bring my POVs to work. You may not like mine, I may not like yours. We don’t need this kind of confrontation at work.

Unionization is political but it’s on a different plane. It’s worker vs employer rather than potentially worker vs worker.

Do we really want to approach a time when one group of workers takes one side, another takes another side and they protest against each other and cause disruption to the vast majority who have no interest in getting personally involved?

Presumably both groups would have this “right” though be their opinions different.


I share your preference for keeping politics out of the office, but:

* In the US, and in Tech, I hardly think trying to organize a union is going to not have worker v. worker politics. "We should organize" involves all kinds of Why's and How's about which there are widely divergent opinions among today's workforce.

* Employers routinely bring politics into the office, for starters by funding Political Action Committees and lobbying for what they perceive to be in "the company's" interest. I actually heard a COO in an all-hands once say "yeah I guess we don't support the Democrats <chuckle>" -- so if your employer is going to make their support of Candidate X part of the work culture, is there any reason other than job security why I'd want to keep my support for Candidate Y under wraps?


> What I don’t want is anyone making it a point to bring their personal politics to work. We have other forums for that.

The American life has been completely subsumed into corporate culture. These other forums have either been rendered useless through an impossible-to-navigate political system that swallows any real momentum, been disbanded due to the nature of work requiring communities to fragment and move, or are facades for community like you see in Reddit or HN--posting isn't politics, people.

I have the same inclination with you that I don't want to hear other people's personal politics at work (likely for different reasons), but it's unavoidable when every company attempts to become your family. I don't really know what to do about it, but I don't think it's as easy as HN believes it to be.


In the 'old days', the maxim was to leave your politics with your club. The gathering of like minded people used to be more common. Political parties, were actual goups of people who regularly met to discuss and push their ideas. Likewise, hundreds of other semi-formal groups pervaded the cities and towns. There was local and personal dialouge that could not take place at work, nor was it felt proper. The online happening changed that all. People felt like they could be part of more than one group, but still clung close tribal assosiation with it, even though their influence was no longer present. And here we are.

> What I don’t want is anyone making it a point to bring their personal politics to work. We have other forums for that.

And few forums affect us for 40 hours / week of working plus whatever impact they have outside of the workday. And few forums provide the opportunity that our employers do. Getting Google to care about climate change has far more of an impact than holding a sign up in the street does.

> If I don’t like their politics I can vote at the ballot box, donate to causes, volunteer etc.

Good luck - your employer can spend billions per year and make your efforts inconsequential.

> Unionization is political but it’s on a different plane. It’s worker vs employer rather than potentially worker vs worker.

I'm glad you've come around! But this is also potentially worker vs worker, as there are plenty of workers who are happy to not negotiate on a level playing field, and who are happy not to have things like healthcare or higher wages for all (there's a weird strain of authoritarian subservience in American workers).

> Do we really want to approach a time when one group of workers takes one side, another takes another side and they protest against each other and cause disruption to the vast majority who have no interest in getting personally involved?

This has already been happening with union protests for hundreds of years. Workers don't always agree and aren't always compelled to join a union. Corporations hired groups like the Pinkertons to attack unions and kill some disruptive workers (and your employer has recently hired a firm know for squashing unionization efforts...).

Nondisruptive protests do much less to effect change than disruptive ones. Rosa Parks was disruptive when she sat in the front of the bus, early unionizers were disruptive when they shut down factories and rail, unions and activists were disruptive when they marched for civil rights, or against murders and abuses by police and government. The US was founded on such principles - tossing tea into Boston harbor was a political, disruptive act, and I bet the workers on the ship were pissed about it the next day. None of these past actions were undertaken by a majority. A minority of people supported the patriots in the Revolutionary war and fewer still participated.


> Don’t politicize every part of our existence.

Some peoples mere existence is political, hiring black people or women is sometimes seen as playing some sort political card. And for the people who have been hired they must personally defend their presence.


If you are truly yourself without inhibition in a corporate environment, you are probably either boring or crazy.

Corporate wants to be perceived as authentic, but they mean something entirely different. And professionalism dictates that you either get it or don't. I am not fan of emphasized professionalism, but I restrict myself in the interest of the business from time to time. Because that are largely my interests too and that of my colleges if you have a cooperative relationship.

That said, I do think unions can be a worthwhile endeavor and they can be constructive, especially for larger employers. Googles actions strongly seem to hint that they disagree though and this could be a case where they just wanted to get rid of some inconvenient people.


Life is also metaphorical, psychological, physiological, illogical, physical, religious, worldly, sexual, etc... And the emphasis of one particular dimension is pathological.

And most of that stuff needs to be left at home. Work is a rarefied environment where we're paid for our time to focus on someone else's problem.


The average American spends 26% of their lives at work. Work is not the most significant part.

Waking hours, bud. 168 hours in a week. 56 of them, approximately, spent sleeping. 40/112 ("average" fulltime workload) is 36%. Commute adds another 4% on average. What single activity or type of activity are you doing for 40 hours per week other than working and sleeping?

And in tech and other skilled professions, how many of us go over 40 hours for keeping our skills up? Or for finding new positions? Or for education to enhance our careers? Work is clearly the most significant part of our lives.


Though of course it would be less than 40 hours if you spend part of it protesting your employer instead of working.

Those who work from multiple locations might understand this better, independent consultants maybe best of all: Work is a thing you do, not a place you go.


If you’re going to nitpick then one might also concede most people are productive about two hours a day (i.e. “doing work”).

Now we've switched to talking about efficiency. Which is another matter - we spend 40 hours at work for some reason, but most of us don't need that much time to provide enough value to justify our salaries. Seems silly, right?

What does how long you're productive have to do with how much time it takes out of your life?

Can you clarify what does this number mean? I work for 8 hours a day and that's definitely not 26%.

What's that come out to in waking hours? Is commute factored into that?

“leave your politics at home” must remain explicitly disjoint from “workers have a right to self organization”.

if it doesn’t, then workers don’t have a right to self organization , and that, uh, doesn’t end well.


"leave your politics at home" while working for a company that is shaping tomorrow's society. that is to say, adopt the politics of your boss at work.

i don't like that.


Don’t work there? Vote for policies that shape tomorrow?

“Accept large sums of money for building your boss’ vision for tomorrow while complaining about it” has a lot going for it, but I have a hard time actually sympathizing for folks that think they’ve a right to that.


I see your point but allowing workers to decide the politics of a company is populism.

People feel confident because they have many like minded colleagues. What happens when the winds change? Are people going to be happy when the workers of Exxon decide that it’s in their best interest to extract from some wildlife refuge? It’s not a good idea. We have laws that should govern corporations and businesses . It should not be a referendum for everything.


If not the workers deciding what the politics of a company, then who? It's going to be a much smaller number of people from a much more privileged class; the managers and key shareholders.

> Are people going to be happy when the workers of Exxon decide that it’s in their best interest to extract from some wildlife refuge?

No, but that's because they're not happy when the managers of Exxon decide that either?

Really the underlying problem is that giant companies and especially media companies like Google have a very large amount of political power. Almost more than the big parties, and certainly more than the average grassroots organisation. How google uses that power matters.

If Google want to be apolitical, the very first step should be to end all their corporate political donations and PACs. A good second step would be to end all recommendations (ie free promotion) for political videos on youtube.


Are you suggesting that Exxon doesn't already lobby governments to make the laws that allow them to extract oil from places where they really probably shouldn't? And that the employee's opinions don't matter?

can anyone help me with why this post got downvoted?

Yes, I would rather see Google accept/tolerate all political viewpoints. Google is mostly liberal but that doesn’t represent everyone. They have a significant influence.

We should all be free to form our own opinions, whatever they may be, and not fear retribution from anyone.


“inaction is implicit support of the status quo” is, unfortunately, true.

Well, I don't like a bunch of activist techies trying to shape tomorrow's society using the assets of their host corporation. The answer, I believe, is to reduce the "shaping" impact of corporations in the first place.

Isn’t that why people have a right to vote?

I ‘vote’ by refusing to work for Google or use their products :)

Sure, the problem is that this company's money can influence what shows up on the ballot.

Ok. Then bring your politics to work.

But when you have to make a difficult decision (whether to ban a popular Youtuber for hate speech), make that decision based on precedent, the good of the company, and for the users. Don't view it as a personal attack to your political beliefs, and default to banning when the free speech happens to clash with your beliefs, while defaulting to complaining when people talking about LGBT+ rights get demonitized.

Also, if you are allowed to take your politics to work, accept that others may bring their opposing politics to work too. The vocal conservative-right Googlers are in the minority, and are mistreated as such by the political power brokers. A union should be for all the workers.


I think these things are distinct. You can advocate for unionization without being political.

For example you can advocate for unions but you don’t have to conflate that with your personal politics.


If you don't consider unions a political issue then what is your definition of politics? The organization of labor is one of the central pillars of civilization and has been political since time immemorial.

So I can say I support the AFL-CIO or whatever but that doesn’t mean I have to also believe in socialism or that I cannot support or vote for a Libertarian. It doesn’t mean I need to also be active is water rights or clean energy policy.

I may simply want better working conditions with no strings attached.


Why is clean energy policy inherently political but worker rights isn't? I don't understand what distinction you're trying to make here.

“We should have a Union to negotiate with management” is orthogonal to “we should cease all work for law enforcement”.

So which politics are OK and which aren't? They're both politics even if they're "orthogonal".

The kind of politics where you point at specific people or groups and say "ooh, they're nasty" isn't OK.

Unions have traditionally painted management as adversarial to employee best interests. Is agitating for unionization therefore the kind of politics that isn't okay?

Agitating for unionization often involves pointing out specific problems with working conditions, and suggesting that a union would help solve those problems. I have no issue with that kind of thing.

If the entire union pitch is "the bosses are greedy fat cats, let's get them!", I do think that's toxic. There are good reasons why companies can't ban even toxic kinds of union organizing, but I would be very unhappy if I had to hear that all the time.


Unionization is done for collective bargaining in worker's best interest; the problem is when it is done to organize strikes to force the employer to enact social or political policies. This may remove the idea of collective bargaining and turn it into a top down fiefdom to promote the organizers pet ideologies

It could, if union members didn't take active interest in the activities of the union, since union leadership is generally beholden to them. This is true of any body politic that elects leadership.

I find myself wondering (from the aggregate of posts in this topic) how many people actually have union experience. Unions are highly political creatures. In my state, at least one of the unions requires during election seasons that their membership take time out of their personal lives (time the union knows they have because they've held hours and overtime standards for over a century) to work the phones to stump for political candidates the union supports.


Is this such a gray area? Sure unions are political, but they are politics directly relevant to the relationship of employees and their employer. Whereas your views on foreign policy or abortion laws or the existence of god, these are what many people think you should leave at home.

The first one is protected by law, which is what this case hinges on. But it’s not at all clear that everyone who wants a union at work also shares an identical opinion on open borders, drone strikes, facial recognition etc etc

That is literally impossible, because workers' rights are inevitably a personal issue for a worker. Workers' solidarity, which is _essential_ for strong unions, means being an ally of causes unrelated to yours.

On the contrary, workers' solidarity is about focusing on the inherently related issues of worker's rights. If one of your coworkers is mistreated, that's very related to your own interests, even if you can't or don't expect to be mistreated in that exact same way.

When you see a union taking stances on random unrelated political issues, that's not solidarity. That's union leaders exploiting solidarity for their own political benefit.


The NLRA protect's worker's rights to organize around labor conditions at the workplace. Labor conditions are only a subset of politics.

"Leave your politics at home" is more stupid than ever as we think about unions. Politics is the negotiation of power, and unions are a counterbalancing act to power. Any conversation about minority outreach is a discussion of power. The talk around immigration and H1-B visas is a conversation about power.

>, leave your politics at home,

If you accept sexual harassment, abuse of power, support of dictatorial regimes, etc. at the workplace you are going to live in a hell hole for the lest of your life. I will recommend being smart about politics and do it from inside a union or other protected group. But, to never just accept that things are bad without remedy. We have gotten really far as a society to give up now that things are easier to change than ever.

> I’m sure they regret their initial idealism

What great things Google have done since? Google is big enough and rich enough to not have to innovate or do anything interesting anymore. Google is just another part of the system. But, for any startup is impossible to succeed without people involved with strong believes and able to move and inspire others.

Google change makes sense from an economic perspective. But, as a society hurts us and we need to fix their attitude individually and together through unions and other collective actions.


Unions are political constructs, so by definition a right to unionize implies a right to politicize work (at least for a narrow wedge of "politicize").

And Google spans such a wide range of users' lives, that at Google at least, it's going to be hard to do one's job properly in a lot of areas of the company without having some political / philosophical conversations about free speech (YouTube bans and censorship), the right to bear arms (Google's block against firearm ads), etc. One can consider the decisions the company makes to be divorced from political issues, but politics ultimately rides atop philosophy, and companies are entities within societies, so the politics will inevitably come into play.

If political strategic decisions are something Google is deciding is "above the pay grade" of swathes of engineers, that's a decision they can make but it is a shift for the company from its roots.


> In the end it’ll likely be difficult for them to prevail over Google

Why do you believe this is true? CA has arguably the most employee-favorable laws in the country, particularly wrt workplace discrimination.

I would withhold judgement until more facts come to light; an important one being which legal firm(s) they have chosen to represent them.

If I had to bet now: Google settles before it goes to trial; plaintiffs walk away very rich in exchange for signing a non-disparagement agreement; no one else will know the full story.


"Maybe they’re both guilty of wrongdoing."

If she had personal photos on the phone, she had copyright on those and Google flat-out violated that specific right by denying her access to her works.

Remember, what's written in a contract cannot go against the law. Copyright is very firmly enshrined in our legal system.


Copyright says that Google can't copy her photos without her permission. It creates no obligation for them to not delete them or provide any kind of access.

If you store your copyrighted paintings in a storage unit, cease to pay for that unit, and fail to clear that unit, the owner of the storage company has the right to dispose of your personal belongings. It's understood in the contracts one signs when renting a storage unit.

There is similar understanding about how de-corpification works if someone's phone gets de-corped (though I doubt most employees read the fine print).


That's the strangest interpretation of copyright law I've ever seen.

You're destroying property and work. Denying someone access to their work is just as bad as usurping control over it.

Remember, copyright gives the owner of the work full control over it. For Google to remove that specific control without a court order means they're violating the law.

Go read chapters 2 and 5 of Title 17. This makes it abundantly clear.


Copyright is not deleteright.

Or non delete right.

This claim is a real stretch.

Go read chapters 2 and 5 of Title 17.

> clear and repeated violations of our data security policies

Who’s data did they access? What data was accessed? How was that data used?

Google knows they’re in a bind, because if a few SJWs accessed internal Google data in a “bad way” (as viewed outside the Bay Area monoculture) then that’s going to be a really bad look, maybe even worse than a hacker.


Why is this comment down voted? The three questions here are SUPER relevant to how Google operates. Everyone I know at Google says "The easiest way to get fired is to access user data in a non-permitted way."

If they just subscribed to public calendars, it doesn't sound like such a big deal (after all... the data is public). But if they used an internal API or used their position to elevate their privilege, that's a big deal.


My understanding is that these employees were looking through people's calendars and documents to figure out who was negotiating for Google with outfits like the Border Patrol, so they could pressure these people to stop and so they could let outside press know the status of any discussions.

So say Alice who is a Search Engine Data Analyst finds that Daryl over in Corporate Finance has a meeting "CBP update Washington". Alice reasons that CBP is US Customs & Border Patrol who she believes are inhumane and Google shoudn't work wit them - and she pulls up all Daryl's other meetings and sets an alert to tell her if Daryl books any other meetings with the word CBP in. Alice gets fired.

The problem for this current plan is that sure it looks like Alice is being fired for _snooping on corporate plans_ which historically wasn't against Google's rules but is also not a legally protected activity. Sure, she was snooping on those plans for the same reason she was organizing (to stop Google working with CBP), but that doesn't make her fired for organizing.

The most senior person I knew properly at Google left citing this sort of ethical problem as one reason, they felt that working on products that might be used by people who had beliefs they disagreed with was unacceptable. Weirdly they left to work for... a famous AAA video games vendor that specifically brought them on to add obviously unethical monetisation features to future games which prey on people with gambling addiction and other problems. We have agreed to disagree on whether this is outright hypocrisy.


> We have agreed to disagree on whether this is outright hypocrisy.

At the very least the game company doesn't have the power of the state to force their shitty loot box gambling on people where CBP et al do. That is CBP /will/ use the tools Company X develops on anyone and the video game you can not buy. They may be ruining a game you want to play but no one is forced to play the Gashapon MTX Slot machine games.


Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing

Over and above the policy that a Corporation has over your phone (personal or otherwise) when you access their stuff, nobody talks about the potential liability that can open up to your personal device during an e-discovery process.

You could potentially have to hand your personal device over to lawyers where they can then put your personal device through an e-discovery process should your employer be sued .

People need to really think hard before they relinquish that kind of control of a device that you own.


I have a policy of never allowing a MDM policy on my phone. I use the web portals for calendaring, email. Notifications for calendar events are usually parlayed into SMS notifications.

There's also questions about "IP" law here. If you're developing interesting software at home, having separate hardware for that work is going to be critical for the legal analysis to get funding, etc.


“ The firings were announced less than a week after the New York Times revealed that Google had hired an anti-union consulting firm.”

Those at Google who undermine the power of labor to organize are evil people.


Google is facing a scaling problem. Scaling is not just limited to business functions such as marketing activities, but it's also about managing their employees as the number of staffs required will keep on increasing which surely would introduce a host of brand new problems.

Google's management is having a hard time in dealing with this aspect, evidently by the scaling back of their weekly town halls, internally categorized as "TGIF meetings", mostly known by the public as those quick fire chat Q&A sessions with management. The recent cancellations of many Google products and services were probably an indirect result of this too, it was also an attempt of scaling back. Its huge size must have exceeded the current limitations of their operation structure, unless some of its core policies and missions must be altered significantly. A few of these changes may have already been carried out, the hiring of an anti-union organization and the installing of internal web browser monitoring tool.

This begs the question though, when you have something that got scaled up to such an enormous size which inevitably would accompany with more unique and challenging chaotic scenarios, what are the possible approaches to resolve these situations in a harmony and effective way? The solutions are not easy and these problems are becoming increasingly common in our modern world. The same issues that were once very simple have upgraded themselves to become much more difficult to deal with and with many added layers of complexity.

I attended a recent startup event in Vietnam in which Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nam, chairman of Endeavor Vietnam, told the story of his personal experience in facing a similar challenge in managing a large number of people. The numbers were probably not at the same crazy level at Google's but the effective solution for him in the end was to go and live in some rural villages for a while where thousands of people manage to participate daily in a very large but well-behaved community and all in harmony.

The challenge facing with an increase of diversity is alignment. The greatest benefit of diversity is new innovations, but only if its chaotic nature can be managed by correct alignment. Without this anchoring element, things will quickly spiral out of control. To effectively aligning a massive group of people, this anchoring element must be based on basic core values or principles that naturally DO NOT or RARELY CHANGE over time. There won't be any consistent alignment if those values change too often or just cannot be applied effectively for long enough. I believe Google might be approaching it incorrectly. Some of the methods reported by the media seem very similar to censoring. That is not alignment, that is the equivalent of putting a dome structure over everyone. It would slowly create an environment that inhibits creativity limiting people's abilities. It's certainly an alternative method but just not a preferred one.

Correct alignment is a much better and more efficient method for the long game. Talents and technical skills can all change very quickly in modern time, what binds people together are the common mindsets and personality attributes that are always considered good under any environments and withstanding any degrees of change. This alignment is applied even to the management themselves, and not just to the engineers whom they manage, it is actually more critical at the top level. What is the Google's personna? There should be a mechanism in place for the management to detect when they are deviating too much from the anchoring alignment as well. What we are seeing at Google is probably an early sign of this deviation, or perhaps the values being used in aligning everyone together just do not have as much longevity?


While everyone in this thread are arguing about using your corporate phone for personal or your personal phone for corporate I'm just sitting here thinking:

"I wish I had a job where a corporate phone was a thing, but I certainly wouldn't give my employer access to my personal device, that's what the one they provide in this situation is for".


"The fired workers said that they plan to continue their activism"

Some people apparently forgot why they come to work.


Why do they come to work? Why do you come to work? Is it something like "I shut up and sit down for money" or something else? Are there activists who earn money?

I think that work places should be a neutral ground for everyone to do what they were hired for - free of any personal ideologies or politics. If you think, that work is is for activism of your personal beliefs, you clearly got it all wrong my friend. Yes - you go to work for money for what you do. Nothing more, nothing less.

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