Employee Sues Google for 'Illegal' Confidentiality Policies

The company allegedly runs an internal spying program and even prohibits employees from writing a novel about working in Silicon Valley.

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Employee Sues Google for 'Illegal' Confidentiality Policies
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Senior Editor for Engadget
2 min read
This story originally appeared on Engadget

The Information has reported that a Google employee brought a lawsuit against his employer, accusing the company for internal confidentiality policies that supposedly breach California labor laws.

One of the more egregious complaints is that Google apparently runs an internal "spying program" that encourages employees to snitch on one another if they think someone leaked information to the press. Further, Google apparently warns employees to not write about potentially illegal activities within the company, even to Google's own attorneys. There's even a note that prohibits employees from writing "a novel about someone working at a tech company in Silicon Valley" without approval.

The employee, known only as "John Doe" in the suit, said that one of the reasons for this strict policy is that the company is very fearful of leaks to the press, so much so that anyone who's guilty of it could be fired. In fact, the employee in question was apparently falsely accused of doing just that.

"Confidential information" is classified as "everything at Google," and can't be shared with "press, members of the investment community, partners, or anyone else outside of Google." Essentially, the lawsuit alleges that employees are barred from discussing anything about Google anywhere.

According to the lawsuit, current labor laws state that employees should be able to discuss workplace conditions and potential violations inside the company without the fear of retribution. Additionally, that it should relax the policies so that employees are allowed to speak about the company to outsiders under certain circumstances.

The lawsuit was filed in the California Superior Court in San Francisco under California's Private Attorneys General Act. If successful, the state would collect 75 percent of the penalty, while the rest would be paid out over to the company's 65,000 employees. Since there are 12 alleged violations in the suit, the maximum fine could amount to $3.8 billion, with each employee getting about $14,600.

"Google's motto is 'don't be evil.' Google's illegal confidentiality agreements and policies fail this test," the lawsuit said.

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