Google Exec’s Internal Email On Its Data Leak Policy Has Rattled Employees

With employees organizing sit-ins over retaliation along with also continuing to agitate for change, Google can be locking down internal communications. Google’s top legal executive, Kent Walker, sent an all-staff email Thursday informing employees that will accessing documents classified as “need to know” without permission could result in termination, sources inside the company tell BuzzFeed News.

After BuzzFeed News contacted Google about the email, Walker sent an update Tuesday within the company’s daily newsletter, clarifying that will employees were typically only terminated when intentional violations resulted in data leaks, risks to user privacy, or harm to coworkers.

The Thursday email titled “An important reminder on data classifications” referenced adjustments to Google’s data security policy that will were updated in October. Although the policy has been in place since 2007, along with also updates are visible internally, employees weren’t notified by email at the time. The timing of the email announcement rattled employees who’ve been involved with organizing within the company’s ranks along with also who told BuzzFeed News they saw that will as a blow to internal accountability mechanisms.

These employees said the “need to know” language within the data security policy leaves which particular documents are considered “need to know” up to Google’s interpretation; “need to know” documents aren’t necessarily labeled as such, along with also the punishment for accessing such documents without permission can vary yet include termination.

within the past, Google has had a reputation for openness, allowing employees wide access to documents along with also source code regardless of their job assignment. right now, following leaks about products in China along with also partnerships with the US military, as well as employee efforts to change the company’s policies on forced arbitration, workplace sexual misconduct, along with also benefits for contract workers, Google can be tightening the reins.

The email “could very easily be read as an attempt to scare anyone who might be a whistleblower or organizer,” said one employee who requested anonymity when discussing the email out of fear of termination. “I think that will’s clear that will organizing around Maven along with also the walkout would likely have been much more difficult if these policies had been in place.”

The employee declined to provide BuzzFeed News having a copy of the letter, citing a warning within the email itself that will the document can be considered confidential information.

The warnings about data security follow various other signs that will Google can be scrambling to control leaks; the company’s weekly all-staff meeting, known as TGIF, can be no longer being recorded along with also made available to staff in perpetuity, along with also the executives who attend are no longer taking live questions by employees at the meeting, as BuzzFeed News previously reported.

In addition, in recent weeks Google employees who were publicly involved within the November walkout over the mishandling of workplace sexual misconduct have gone public with claims that will Google retaliated against them. Two of the employees who organized the walkout have since been demoted, according to the completely new York Times.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on the adjustments to the data security policy, along with also referred BuzzFeed News to its earlier statement on retaliation: “We prohibit retaliation within the workplace along with also publicly share our very clear policy. To make sure that will no complaint raised goes unheard at Google, we give employees multiple channels to report concerns, including anonymously, along with also investigate all allegations of retaliation.”

Members of an internal Google email list dedicated to discussion about workplace organizing are concerned about their employer’s attempt to dissuade dissenters along with also crack down on leaks.

“that will’s such a clear retreat by the culture of internal openness along with also transparency which we used to be proud of,” said the anonymous employee. “that will made me more convinced than ever that will organizing ourselves as workers can be essential, both for our own protection along with also to make Google the kind of company that will we want to work for.”