Google announced Monday that it fired four employees, including a software engineer who was at the center of a San Francisco rally last week, for accessing and sharing internal documents and calendars.
Rebecca Rivers, a Google software engineer based in Boulder, Colorado announced on her personal Twitter account that she was terminated on Monday, but says she’s being targeted for her activism to stop the tech giant from working Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Google fired Rivers and three other staffers saying that they committed ‘clear and repeated violations’ of data security policies that were greater than their claims that they had simply glanced at calendars and other files not pertinent to their field during work.
They allegedly conducted ‘systematic searches’ for employees’ materials and shared information such as calendar screen shots and other details beyond their jobs and set notifications for what people were doing and when, including medical appointments, according to Engadget.
The monitoring led staffers to feel ‘scared or unsafe’, according to Google.
On Monday Google fired four employees for violating data security policies including Colorado based software engineer Rebecca Rivers. She says she was targeted for her work in protesting Google’s work with Customs and Border Patrol
Rivers shared this tweet announcing her termination on Monday
After Rivers was suspended last week, she became the center of a rally at the Google San Francisco office on Friday where 200 people gathered to call for her to be reinstated
Rivers said she was being targeted by Google for her activism at the company. She had helped organize a petition in August against Google working with US immigration agencies such as CBP which enforced Trump’s separation of migrant families at the border.
In August Google offered a free pilot of one of its cloud products to CBP.
Rivers was indefinitely suspended last week for accessing documents that didn’t belong to her and her leave promoted a rally outside Google’s San Francisco office on Friday where about 200 people gathered.
‘Instead of listening to me or thousands of my co-workers, Google has punished me by putting me on administrative leave,’ Rivers said at the Friday rally. ‘I believe everyone has a right to know what their work is being used for.’
Rivers said that Google’s investigations team questioned her about her involvement in organizing a petition against Google’s with CBP and her social media usage.
Friday’s crowd protested her suspension and the suspension of another engineer, Laurence Berland, who was accused of improperly accessing colleagues’ internal calendars.
Rivers said she was being targeted by Google for her activism at the company. She had helped organize a petition in August against Google working with US immigration agencies such as CBP which enforced Trump’s separation of migrant families at the border. In August Google offered a free pilot of one of its cloud products to CBP.
During the Friday Rally, Rivers and Berland denied that they provided information to the press.
They said that the documents they accessed were not sensitive and that monitoring public calendar events does not break any corporate rules, according to Vox.
In a memo sent to all employee on Monday, Google’s Security and Investigations Team said ‘none of these individuals were fired for simply looking at documents or calendars during the ordinary course of their work,’ according to a copy obtained by the Washington Post.
‘To the contrary, our thorough investigation found the individuals were involved in systematic searches for other employees’ materials and work. This includes searching for, accessing, and distributing business information outside the scope of their jobs,’ the memo added.
The memo then said that while Google maintains an open culture, it takes information security seriously.
‘We have always taken information security very seriously, and will not tolerate efforts to intimidate Googlers or undermine their work, nor actions that lead to the leak of sensitive business or customer information. This is not how Google’s open culture works or was ever intended to work,’ the memo added.
This month Google’s top attorney Kent Walker reminded employees of the company’s policy regarding reviewing internal documents saying employees should only access paterials pertinent to their work.
The firing comes as Google seeks to more tightly control information disseminated within and outside of the company.
The heightening security measures were likely placed following recent leaks from the tech giant that revealed sensitive projects Google is working on with the Defense Department and attempts to create products for mainland China, even though Google is largely banned there.
A spokesperson for Google said the company is not confirming the names of the employees fired.
This isn’t the first time that Google has come under fire over retaliation for organizing among employees.
Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, two of the leaders of Google’s walkout against sexual harassment in 2018, said publicly that they were ousted from the company for their organizing.
In September Google publicly reminded its employees about their legal rights to talk abut and engage in workplace organizing as agreed upon in a settlement with the U.S. national labor Relations Board, over claims that Google was suppressing workers’ protected speech.