Google is accused of spying on employees. The internet behemoth is under heavy criticism by its employees for a new tool that they think is meant to keep tabs on employee actions.
The featured concern was highlighted by an employee in a memo that was reviewed by Bloomberg, who also later published a news piece regarding the same.
The tool in question is a Google Calendar extension developed especially for the version of the Google Chrome browser installed on company computers. The feature reportedly sends a pop-up message to anyone creating a Google Calendar event consisting of more than 100 people or 10 rooms.
Employees believe it is a way for higher officials to track employee activities aimed at change and activism, which seem to be on the rise in recent times.
When asked about the tool’s intent, Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. denied the suspicions to be “categorically false”. They further claimed that the extension’s purpose is to manage and curb spam on the Google Calendar service.
The explanation seems reasonable given the recent controversy around the easy accessibility and manipulation of Google Calendar events. A big section of employees, however, still believe that Google is spying on the employees to crush any unwanted incidents at the early stage itself.
Spying On Employees: Lack of transparency?
There is a decent amount of evidence to counter the Alphabet’s disclaimer of Google’s intent to monitor its employees. When the project’s existence first came into knowledge in September, the privacy review team questioned whether it aligned with the organization’s culture.
The forced and permanent nature of its installation raised further alarm among employees. To make things worse, the alleged purpose of this compulsion is to ensure policy enforcement.
However, the biggest red flag came when project documents were withheld from several employees. These documents contained information about the design of the tool.
Growing employee dissatisfaction
This is by no means the first instance of employee dissatisfaction in Google, although it seems to be the first to come across as blatantly oppressive.
Google’s employees have been vocal about company policies that don’t align with their value systems, and have witnessed victory in a fair number of instances.
In 2018, Google did away with its forced arbitration policy after employees protested vehemently against it. The outcry came as a response to Google’s questionable handling of sexual harassment cases.
Google has also been criticized for paying contract employees lesser than permanent employees, despite a similar workload. At the same time, a different set of benefits are granted to temp workers.
In May, Google was also accused of considering other drastic and equally unfair measures like decreasing the number of promotions and discontinuing annual employee holiday gift.
A Google spokeswoman also reported back in August that the company is creating a team to survey the company’s chat boards. A tool that allows employees to flag controversial posts is also in the works. More recently, on October 21st, a Google office in Zurich attempted to prevent a meeting about unionization from happening. An e-mail stating the meeting won’t happen was sent out to all attendees. Despite this, the employees went ahead with the meeting.
A depleting morale
Apart from internal policies, employees have also been active in expressing dissent against Google’s projects.
One such project was Google’s Dragonfly, a search engine for China that would adhere to Chinese censorship laws. Upon descent, the project was allegedly dropped. However, earlier this year, employees came across codes that seemed similar to those of Dragonfly. This led to the suspicion that the project is still ongoing.
Google also went ahead with their Maven AI project with Pentagon despite employees expressing their disapproval of Google’s involvement in war technology.