Yesterday afternoon, Gawker published a bombshell article about a Google Site Reliability Engineer named David Barksdale who they claimed had on multiple occasions violated the privacy of four underaged teenage users with whom he was personally acquainted by illicitly accessing their personal Gmail, Gchat, Google Voice, and other Google account information. (A source tells Gawker that the “harassment did not appear to be sexual in nature.”) Without confirming these specific allegations, Google has confirmed that the engineer was fired for “breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies.”
In a statement to TechCrunch, Bill Coughran, a Senior Vice President of Engineering at Google, writes:
“We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies. We carefully control the number of employees who have access to our systems, and we regularly upgrade our security controls–for example, we are significantly increasing the amount of time we spend auditing our logs to ensure those controls are effective. That said, a limited number of people will always need to access these systems if we are to operate them properly–which is why we take any breach so seriously.”
TechCrunch reports that on one past occasion, another Google engineer was fired for accessing user data and that the offender was also dismissed.
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