A word of advice: Don't get your legal advice from the same journalists that want to use your story, and maybe also your name, to further their own career.
There's an inherent conflict of interest between someone who wants to use your leak to further their own agenda (be it activism or simply writing a juicy news story) and your own interests as someone with potentially massive legal liability. When the legal wheels start turning, it's not the journalist who is putting their finances and freedom at risk. It's the employee.
Leaking company documents or even violating NDAs you signed as part of your employment should not be taken lightly, no matter how friendly sites like this make it sound. Always engage with legal representation that is not affiliated with the journalists who want your story. Never let a friendly journalist talk you into divulging information that could expose you until you've worked through the legal ramifications, no matter how much they encourage you to push forward.
How substantive that promise is I'm not sure, but i was made and is part of the record.
I strongly encourage listening if you have the time. Excellent information and discussion.
Transcript as alternative to YouTube
Relevant quote (mangled grammar in original):
We will do anything and everthing to protect and stop any retaliation against you in any legal action the company may bring or anyone else, with that made very clear in the course of these proceedings.
At the 1:35 a.m. timestamp.
Press is the fourth estate, even if news as a profit center has tainted their motives of late.
She is protected by the Democrats who want to install Internet censors at strategic corporations. Then the Democrats control all mainstream media and the mainstream web.
The big actual problem is of course massive data collection on everyone. That should be addressed, but won't, because the swamp needs the data.
When a corporation begins to infringe on a government’s ability to manage its citizens you can be sure that there will be a concerted effort to limit those efforts.
Like, a really basic thing here is that the legal advice starts by asking people to evaluate whether the misconduct they're thinking about violates laws. But it provides little guidance on what those laws might be. Obviously, they'd say that the first step here is to retain counsel. But that's an expensive and difficult first step, and more workers will need to qualify what they're observing carefully before taking that step.
Did anyone else read this more closely and reach a different conclusion?
The security stuff seems especially weak. Like, basic things you'd want to see headlined are the types of corpsec measures that large tech companies have deployed to trace leaks, and what they're likely to find if they image all the devices your contract with them allows them to image.
A much more fundamental problem I have with this "handbook" is that it seems geared towards getting people to leak things to the press and regulators. But that's not the limit of what tech workers can do to respond; a simple thing that the handbook doesn't talk much about is "when to quit", let alone when and how to engage in concerted action with other team members, and what the risks/benefits of that are.
I looked through the "Media Handbook" and had the same conclusion: The advice doesn't really seem to be written with the tech worker's best interests in mind. It's more of an advertisement for journalists to collect stories.
The Media section reads like a promotional piece for a media platform called Lioness ( https://www.lioness.co/ ) and its founders. Instead of providing actionable advice about how employees should protect themselves, it mostly glorifies past whistleblowers and encourages the reader to do the same.
A truly worker-focused handbook would begin with a long section about whether or not going to the media is a good idea as well as propose some anonymous alternatives. Traditional whistleblowing may not involve the media at all, especially when government intervention (and the resulting rewards if fines are collected) are at stake. Encouraging employees to go straight to the media is reckless, IMO. There is a time and place for whistleblowing, but this is clearly written as a feeder publication for journalists.
The more I read this website, the more it feels like a promotional piece for the authors and their budding media outlets than an actual advice book for workers.
That may be because often trotted out as a convenient solution to any sort of wrongdoing by a lot of privileged people who themselves have their pick of jobs in US companies.
It's a convenient null hypothesis that could be the substitute for any remedy in this guide. Harassed by your boss? Quit. Company you work for is engaging in wildly illegal stuff? Quit. Facing racism? You guessed it.
That's not to say that quitting is not a convenient and probably the easiest option for a lot of people. I have used it myself. It's just not the one this guide is meant for.
So I think that asking for a "when to quit" part of this guide would be like asking for a "when to know you should just give up and buy a new car" section in a car repair manual . But if you want a lot of people to be good at repairing cars, I would hazard that including a "when to quit and just buy a new car" section wouldn't be high on your list of things to add.
As for the concerted action bit, I have to agree - adding them would be good. My guess is that it would be unionization lite, and those are a non-starter in the US for a million reasons.
 I have to admit I am not particularly clear on this point in reality, because I have never seen a car repair manual. Ouch. Anyone here who has actually seen one? Make me eat my words!
The goal is to pinpoint which piece of an assembly might have failed and only repair or replace that one piece. eg bad wiring harnesses, a single controller in a complex system such as antilock brakes, a single fuse, etc.
The decision whether to keep attempting to repair an ailing car, or stay in a role that supports a company doing "wildly illegal stuff" is beyond what tech writers can determine for you--even given thousands of pages of information in dozens of PDFs.
> Each flow chart ends with a "If nothing failed a test, but the symptom persists, replace the entire part/assembly."
I suppose this kind of does refute my point a little bit. Maybe the Tech Worker Handbook should have rules of thumb on when to quit – e.g. if the estimate for legal fees is going to be more than 1% of your salary, evaluate if makes more financial sense to quit your job and look for a new one instead.
Of course, circumstances differ wildly between individuals, so anything more than a rule of thumb is not possible.
One way you know that my comment doesn't make the point you're arguing against is that you managed to agree with it in the last sentence of your own rebuttal.
I'm simply offering what I think is a compelling reason for them to not include instructions in this guide to the important remedy that you describe, i.e. quitting. Citing the fact that the "Just quit" advice tired shibboleth is sort of a broadside against our profession in general, not your comment in particular. I did think about including a disclaimer about this, but decided not to.
It's quite possible that you and other commenters think it's not compelling; let me know why!
It's utterly unserious content by a grievance-driven person.
Radical solution: don't discriminate against people at work and then they won't have any grievances.
I'm sure there will be more versions of the handbook over the years.
Poor working conditions are solved by forming unions. In Denmark we have strong unions, and while their power is weaning (in parts thanks to big tech platforms jbecoming the middle men and taking 25-50%) our unions are the sole reason we have some of the best working conditions in the world.
Because here’s the secret to good working conditions. If you and everyone else in your line of work stops working, along with anyone working jobs that somehow support your lone of work, things change overnight.
Just ask MCD why they pay the now famous $22 and hour (or however much it was) when they initially didn’t want to. It’s because it’s hard to sell burgers when the dock workers refuse to unload your bread and the truckers refuse to deliver it.
So I’m all for the ideals behind these things, but they need to think bigger if they want to change anything. We shouldn’t need whistleblowers and bad PR to keep Facebook away from our children, it should simply be illegal with mega business ending consequences. When that happens you can be fairly sure that business will start to actually regulate itself, because if there is one thing enterprise businesses care about it’s actual risk.
A reasonable point. However, it seems to me that those unethical decisions can create poor working conditions.
If I know that the work I'm doing is actively harming others, that, as someone with a conscience, directly affects my working conditions for the worse.
I guess it's a matter of perspective.
Huh? How so? How does acknowledging that people of conscience may be distressed and appalled at the harm their company is doing (making their workplace an uncomfortable place) diminish recognition of that harm?
I'm not suggesting that we should care only about such workers, I'm suggesting that should care about everyone. Why is that, in your view, inappropriate?
A reasonable point. I guess it really depends on how you define "poor" in this context.
Whether you use adjectives like "poor", "morally-injurious", "stressful" or anything similar, the underlying idea is the same.
That said, I appreciate your take on this. It definitely helps to explicate my thought. Thanks!
I take your point, and it is a valid one.
That said, there's a continuum here. Let's take Clearview AI as an example. The end result of Clearview's activities are absolutely harmful, and I personally wouldn't work for them.
At the same time, not every employee (tech staff or not) is as culpable for the harms caused by Clearview AI's products as others.
What's more, each individual's situation informs their level of comfort/need WRT their employment. Is the dev responsible for front-end UI as culpable as the dev working on the actual facial recognition back end? How about the sales/marketing folks who approach governments and corporations to use their products?
If you have the means/ability to move away from an employer who is causing harm, assuming you see the harm (as the old saw goes, "it's hard to make someone understand something that their paycheck depends on them not understanding.") at all.
Clearview AI is an extreme example, selected specifically for that reason. but in many other cases, "harm" isn't as clear cut. Uber and GrubHub are great examples of that.
Those companies, in some cases, do provide some value, but they do so by extracting (in my view) a level of profit both undeserved based on the service provided, and exploitative of those actually providing real value (rides, food service and deliveries).
Is every Uber or GrubHub employee responsible for that? Should we blacklist them for shirking their "personal responsibility"?
As I said, I take your point, and it is valid it a bunch of cases. But I think there's a continuum here that you're ignoring. Perhaps I misunderstand you, in which case my apologies. If you'd care to expand on your point, I think it would add to the discussion.
...until you look for signs of burnout and ageism.
Correct! The handbook puts all focus on the individual and "forgets" to recommend collective action. I wonder why.
At GDP adjusted prices, Norway and Sweden are still more expensive, and Denmark cheaper than the US.
Unless you're doing something really wrong, the labour cost to produce most consumer goods is both much smaller than the gross profit from the sale, and largely uncorrelated to the price.
McDonalds is a special case though, both because of its franchise model and because its corporate owned restaurants are largely real estate plays. The latter have a much more complex pricing model that takes into account property taxes, available borrowing terms, VAT, etc along with the usual labor and cost of materials. A McD's in a cheap part of El Paso, Texas might be paying 2% property taxes on its prime real estate while an equivalent location in an expensive part of Denmark might pay a lower .92%. Meanwhile the latter is appreciating at thrice the speed and passing more of the tax burden onto the customer in the form of a 20% VAT that doesn't appear in the sticker price.
Not an expert in this area, but I'd be shocked if McDonalds' books looked anything like a typical restaurant's - real estate investments aside.
> Menu prices vary from each McDonald’s location, so it’s a little difficult to say exactly how much an American would pay for a Big Mac while visiting Denmark. Anecdotally speaking, we checked menu prices via meal-delivery services (UberEats for the United States and JustEat for Denmark) to see how much this popular burger costs in their respective countries. At a McDonald’s location in Copenhagen, for example, this burger cost 30.00 kr (about $4.73). At a McDonald’s location in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a Big Mac costs $4.82.
> This single example lines up with the Big Mac Index, an interactive tool from the Economist that compares Big Mac prices around the world. According to the Big Mac Index, “a Big Mac costs DKr30.00 in Denmark and US$5.66 in the United States.” When adjusted for GDP, the Economist found that “a Big Mac costs 13% less in Denmark (US$4.90) than in the United States (US$5.66) at market exchange rates.”
I've worked in big tech for a bit now and I've seen a lot of open door policies, but never a whistleblower program.
As a contractor, you don't need to report time to the company you didn't work due to being sick. If Google is requiring this, they are statutory employees. That is the real problem. Providing 'benefits' to 'contractors' is just a bandaid. Either the benefits ought to be provided through other means, or the contractors are really employees and that needs to be fixed.
It's good of you to inform users
> That said, I do NOT advise accessing this from a company device. Your employer can, and will likely, track visits to a resource like this Handbook.
But something even better than that would be facilitating a way to ingest the data or consult it without having to access the site each time.
Scattering the text across many little articles discourages a comprehensive reading.
> The Tech Worker Handbook is a collection of resources for tech workers who are looking to make more informed decisions about whether to speak out on issues that are in the public interest. Aiming to improve working conditions, direct attention to consumer harms, or otherwise address wrongdoing and abuse should not be a solo or poorly resourced endeavor.
The Tech Worker Handbook is not a how-to, set of instructions, checklist, or call to action to whistleblow. Whistleblowing — the act of speaking up in order to improve a situation for others — is an individual decision that should be made after a careful consideration of risks, options, and intended outcomes. My hope, though, is that those who do decide to take great risks in coming forward — for all of us — are better prepared and supported.
^ Excerpt from TFA. IMHO it's a good idea, cool resource. Not everyone has Frances Haugen's gumption and foresight.
As an example: it is a legally-protected right in many jurisdictions for employees to share compensation information with each other, or even externally. Many (most?) employers strongly discourage this practice, however, and will usually omit the notice that there are legal restrictions on their response in case employees choose to do so. Ditto labor organizing, many types of guaranteed leave, and most whistleblowing protections.
The information asymmetry between most large employers and their employees w.r.t. legal rights is large, and the company's incentives are almost never aligned towards voluntary disclosure.
What is there to learn from these so-called "whistleblowers"?
Whistleblowers become these little Prometheuses bringing out some fire to fight the giants.
I deeply disagree but can empathize with the pessimism, given how dire the situation has got.
It’s quite easy to lose sight of the whole picture while you are siloed working on a portion of the whole. I commend anyone who makes the public aware of bad corporate or governmental actors, even if it took them a while to come around to making their decision. That they may have profited in the past is immaterial. That’s an ethical dilemma they will need to resolve on their own.
Perhaps in an ideal world, the government would have perfect clarity on the bad things that companies were doing through regulatory oversight. But in practice we're not in that world and a nefarious company can quite effectively hide all sorts of wrongdoing for a long time.