Google fired dozens of employees between 2018 and 2020 for misuse of data, including stealing or leaking company information, or even abusing Google tools to stalk or spy on users, according to leaked documents.
The internal data, which were obtained by: Vice News, describes the results of the tech giant’s internal investigation into how its employees are using their positions to steal, leak or abuse the data they have access to.
According to Vice, they show that 36 employees were laid off in 2020 due to security vulnerabilities, as well as 26 people in 2019 and 18 employees in 2018.
DailyMail.com has reached out to Google for comment.
Google laid off 36 employees in 2020 due to security vulnerabilities, according to internal memos obtained by Vice News. Here is Google’s headquarters in Chicago
A vast majority – 86 percent – of those who were fired from their positions at Google last year were fired for sharing internal information with outside parties.
Another 10 percent of cases involved misuse of the company’s systems, including accessing user or employee data or helping others access that data.
That figure is lower than in 2019, when 13 percent of laid-off workers were fired for reported abuse of the company’s systems.
Employees who engage in data misuse are also reportedly warned, trained and coached before being fired.
“The cases referred to usually involve inappropriate access or misuse of proprietary and sensitive business information or IP,” a Google spokesperson told Vice.
“With regard to user data, we rigorously restrict employee access through a number of industry-leading safeguards, including: limiting access to user data to necessary persons, requiring justification for access to such data, multi-stage review before granting access to sensitive data and monitoring for access anomalies.’
The spokesperson added: “The number of violations, intentional or unintentional, is consistently low.
“Every employee receives annual training, we investigate all allegations and violations lead to corrective action up to and including termination.
“We are transparent in publishing the number and outcome of our investigations and have strict processes in place to protect customer and user data from internal or external threats.”
A Google spokesperson said the company has put in place a number of procedures to restrict any employee’s access to sensitive data. The company is led by Sundar Pichai (pictured)
In 2010, an employee reportedly used his position at Google to access the personal information of four teenagers
The report comes more than a decade after a Google employee was fired for using his position as a Site Reliability Engineer to access the accounts of four minors he met at a technology group in Seattle while driving from the company’s office in Washington worked.
David Barksdale was fired in 2010 after executives discovered he had access to a 15-year-old boy’s Google Voice call logs, as well as contact lists and cat transcripts, and unblocked himself from another teen who had lost communication with him. gawker reported at the time.
The messages he would send the children did not appear to be sexual in nature, and it seemed as if Barksdale was just using the information to show off his title.
His actions reportedly went unnoticed for months as Site Reliability Engineers for the company regularly access servers multiple times a day and often at odd hours.
Facebook has also encountered problems with employee access, with 52 employees reportedly fired between January 2014 and August 2015 for accessing user data.
However, Google is not the only tech giant to have had this problem.
Vice has previously reported that former and current Snapchat employees said it was easy and mundane to access user data, and in a newly published book Regarding the practices at Facebook, a former employee describes how the company fired 52 people between early 2014 and August 2015 for accessing user data for personal reasons.
At that time, more than 16,000 employees had access to users’ private data, Business Insider reports, and Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer at the time, reportedly told CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top executives that technicians had abused their access “almost every month.”
One employee, Business Insider reports, used his access to Facebook user data to track a woman he was traveling with from their hotel room after they argued, and another used his access to dig up information about a woman he had dated after she stopped responding to his messages.
He reportedly had access to “years of private conversations with friends, via Facebook Messenger, events attended, photos uploaded (including the ones she’d deleted), and messages she’d commented on or clicked on.”
The employee could also see her location in real time via the Facebook app.
But after Stamos brought the apparent breach of user privacy to Zuckerberg, he reportedly said changes were a “top priority,” and instructed Stamos to find a fix and provide an update within a year.
At the time, he suggested limiting the number of people with access to the sensitive data to fewer than 5,000 employees, with fewer than 100 having access to passwords, and introducing a procedure requiring employees to formally request access to private data.
Now, a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider: “We have always had a zero tolerance for abuse and have fired all employees who ever had inappropriate access to data.
‘Since 2015,’ the spokesperson laments, ‘we have continued to strengthen our protocols for training, abuse, detection and prevention of our employees.
“We also continue to reduce the need for engineers to access certain types of data as they build and support our services.”