Google workers accuse tech giant of creating a spying tool to track its workers

Google workers accuse tech giant of creating a spying tool that tracks calendar events ‘to stop workers rebelling’

  • Google spokesman said claims made by internal memo were ‘categorically false’
  • Concerns were raised by a Google employee after internal review of extension
  • Google engineers said they had ‘concerns with respect to the culture at Google’

Google employees claim the company is developing a tool to spy on its workers.

They say it is creating a browser add-on to monitor workers’ activities for discussions of labour rights or attempts to organise protests.

The internal extension is reportedly under development and will be installed on the in-office version of Google Chrome used by the company’s employees.

Concerns were raised in a memo by a Google employee and reviewed by Bloomberg News and three other Google employees who wish to remain anonymous. 

An internal extension is reportedly under development to be installed on Google employees custom Google chrome browser used by internal systems. Google logo is seen on a phone (stock)

IT monitors would be notified by the tool whenever staffers created a calendar event with more than 10 rooms or 100 attendees involved, reported the memo. 

The memo stated: ‘This is an attempt of leadership to immediately learn about any workers organization attempts.’

A spokesman for Alphabet Inc.’s Google told Bloomberg: ‘These claims about the operation and purpose of this extension are categorically false.

‘This is a pop-up reminder that asks people to be mindful before auto-adding a meeting to the calendars of large numbers of employees.’

Google explained that the extension was build as a response to an increasing amount of spam created in calendar events. 

It said the extension does not collect personally identifiable information but does add a ‘speed’ bump when employees try to reach a large group of people using the calendar, reports Bloomberg.   

Despite this, the employee memo suggested that the extension was intended to apply new ‘community guidelines’ which encouraged employees to drop all political discussion whilst at work.

Gatherings of more than 100 employees created in the internal Google calendar will send a notification to monitors

Gatherings of more than 100 employees created in the internal Google calendar will send a notification to monitors

The tool is expected to be implemented in October, according to the employees memo – that was posted on an internal Google message board this week.

Google employees speaking to Bloomberg said the tool had been approved by Google’s internal privacy team who had raised ‘a number of concerns with respect to the culture at Google’.

Engineers who developed the tool wrote that employees would not be able to remove it once installed, according to two Google employees.

Just days ago a unionisation meeting held at Google’s Zurich office was held, despite the company’s attempt to cancel it via email. 

Over the last 18 months Google employees have launched internal campaigns against various projects including China’s censored search engine and a contract with the United States Department of Defense, Pentagon, to analyse drone footage.

Protests were also held in response to Google’s handling of sexual harassment complaints, reports Bloomberg. 

In true internet style Google employees took to their internal message board to share memes related to the extension.

A picture of a group of men laughing in suits had the caption: ‘And then we told them, ‘WE WILL NOT make it appear to you that we are watching out for your protected concerted activities’ as we pushed a Chrome extension to report when someone makes a meeting with 100+ people’, reports Bloomberg.

While another of Harry Potter’s defence against the ‘Dark Arts’ teacher Dolores Umbridge read: ‘Google decree number 24: no employee organization or meeting with over 100 participants may exist without the knowledge and approval of the high inquisitor.’

Comically the Google employee who reviewed the extension with Bloomberg said the ‘creepy’ extension should be named ‘not-a-trojan-horse_dot_exe’.  

MailOnline has contacted Google for comment. 


March 2019: Google refused to scrap a Saudi government app which lets men track and control women.

The tech giant says that software allowing men to keep tabs on women meets all of its terms and conditions. 

October 2018: A software bug in Google+ meant that the personal information of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of users was exposed. The issue reportedly affected users on the site between 2015 and March 2018.

The bug allowed app developers to access information like names, email addresses, occupation, gender and more.

Google announced it would be shutting down the Google+ social network permanently, partly as a result of the bug. 

It also announced other security features that meant apps would be required to inform users what data they will have access to. Users have to provide ‘explicit permission’ in order for them to gain access to it.  

August 2018: A new investigation led by the Associated Press found that some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking – even when Location History has been paused.

The investigation found that the following functions were enabled by default: 

  • The Maps app storing a snapshot of where the user is when it is open
  • Automatic weather updates on Android phones pinpointing to where the user is each time the forecast is refreshed  
  • Simple searchers, such as ‘chocolate chip cookies,’ or ‘kids science kits,’ tagging the user’s precise latitude and longitude – accurate to the square foot – and saving it to the Google account

This information was all logged as part of the ‘Web and App Activity feature, which does not specifically reference location information in its description.    

July 2018: The EU fined Google $5 Billion in for shutting-out competitors by forcing major phone manufacturers including South Korea’s Samsung and China’s Huawei to pre-install its search engine and Google Chrome browser by default. 

July 2018: The Wall Street Journal revealed that data privacy practices of Gmail means that it was common for third-party developers to read the contents of users’ Gmail messages.