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Employee Sues Google Over Strict Privacy Rules

22 December 2016

From PC Magazine:

Google’s “don’t be evil” mantra apparently doesn’t apply to the confidentiality agreements it requires its employees to sign, according to a lawsuit against the tech giant filed by one of its employees.

The suit, filed Tuesday in California Superior Court, describes a system of tight control over what Google employees can say about their employer, The Information reported. Rules prohibit employees from writing about potential illegal activity within the company, and even from writing works of fiction based on their experiences there.

Besides being uncomfortably Big Brother-ish, the policies also violate California labor laws, the lawsuit alleges.

“The unnecessary and inappropriate breadth of the policies are intended to control Google’s former and current employees, limit competition, infringe on constitutional rights, and prevent the disclosure and reporting of misconduct,” according to the lawsuit.

. . . .

“We will defend this suit vigorously because it’s baseless,” a [Google] spokesperson told The Verge. “We’re very committed to an open internal culture, which means we frequently share with employees details of product launches and confidential business information. Transparency is a huge part of our culture. Our employee confidentiality requirements are designed to protect proprietary business information, while not preventing employees from disclosing information about terms and conditions of employment, or workplace concerns.”

Link to the rest at PC Magazine and thanks to Deb for the tip.

PG is not familiar with the lawsuit in questions and hasn’t seen the Google employee confidentiality agreement. However, he will observe that corporate legal departments can attract individuals who are prone to overreach.

Additionally, standard corporate documents inevitably seem to grow and almost never shrink. As unusual circumstances arise which may not be clearly addressed in the contract, the solution is always to add a paragraph or a section.

Attorneys who are too close to such documents are sometimes incapable of pulling back to consider whether a document has, in its totality, become unreasonable.


5 Comments to “Employee Sues Google Over Strict Privacy Rules”

  1. This looks like a reaction to California’s “we don’t allow non-compete contracts.”

  2. The idea of limiting what employees can say in order to promote internal transparency seems a reasonable one. I know nothing about law and how legal that is or how unreasonable their enforcement might be but the idea of such a contract for that reason isn’t something I find bothersome.


  3. I remember seeing one where anything you ‘wrote’ on or off the clock belonged to the company. It was intended for the programmers, but the same bit was in the contracts for the non-programmers. I pointed out that I was not being hired as a programmer and that it shouldn’t apply to me, but the HR drone said it was ‘standard’ and I’d have to sign to work there. I let the guy trying to get me hired know that it wasn’t going to happen and left. I hadn’t realized just how much ‘pull’ my friend had because they called me the next day to say that form was no longer an issue if I was still interested.

  4. this is a surprise? THE google who scanned millions of books under copyright without bothering to gain permission for electronic rights? Did google make compromises with dictatorships so they can run their service in countries that suppress free speech? And Goog wants to control employee speech? Shocking.

    And actually strange since ‘do no evil’ seemingly went down the toidy long long ago in terms of full consult for instance with those they sought to exploit at financial benefit to themselves, but no benefit to living authors other than some vapid idea that ‘more people will find your work’. Right.

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