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Google sacks employee for reading email accounts of teens

Posted on September 22, 2010

Google has risen to the heights it now enjoys largely down to its philosophy, or working mandate, of ‘don’t be evil’. It’s search engine results pages are largely clean of spam and it works very hard to crackdown on websites and black hat SEO companies who attempt to ‘game’ the system by doing underhand things such as buying links.

Because of this however, whenever anything emerges from within Google’s own ranks that stirs the blood and causes concern among us, the populous, about Google’s true allegiance with evil – Google has to act fast to dispel those concerns. Recently one such incident did occur when a Google engineer, David Barksdale, was found to have been snooping on the activities of teenagers.

David Barksdale

David Barksdale was sacked by Google

Barksdale was employed by Google in Washington, USA, and he was using his Google given powers to access and read the emails of four teenagers. The timing of this incident couldn’t have come at a worse time for Google as it had just launched the ‘Google Family Safety Centre’ – which is designed to make using the Internet safer for children.

The law website Gawker even revealed how Barksdale used his Google access to gain entry into the Google Voice account of a teenager so he could find the identity of the boy’s girlfriend. The website goes on to claim that Barksdale then taunted the teenager, saying he would call his girlfriend.

This was not an isolated incident either as the website goes on to claim how Barksdale used his access to spy on other teenagers, even being aggressive towards them. Barksdale even accessed the Gmail accounts of users so that he could read transcripts of their chatlogs, and ‘unbanned’ himself from contacting a teenager girl who had previously banned him from making contact with her.

Google sacked Barksdale in July this year.

The Senior VP for Engineering at Google, Bill Coughran, commented:

“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.”

Carl Hopkinson

Posted by Carl Hopkinson

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