Google Employee Sues Company For Draconian Confidentiality Policies, Internal ‘Spying Program’

Google finds itself at the receiving end of a lawsuit, a not uncommon thing for the sultan of search, only this one is comes from within. One of the company's product managers is suing the firm over allegations of illegal confidentiality agreements and employee policies that run afoul of California's labor laws. The employee even accuses Google of promoting a culture of spying on one another.

At dispute are the policies that Google puts in place to prevent leaking confidential information. However, the lawsuit alleges that the policies go to far and in essence restrict employees "from speaking plainly—even internally—about illegal conduct or dangerous product defects" over fear that such statements could one day be used against Google in litigation or as part of a government investigation.


"The policies even prohibit Googlers from speaking to their spouse or friends about whether they think their boss could do a better job," the lawsuit states.

Google stands accused of breaking nearly a dozen labor laws, such as prohibiting an employee from telling a potential employer how much money they or what work they performed when searching for a new job.

"Google's unlawful confidentiality policies are contrary to the California Labor Code, contrary to public policy, and contrary to the interests of the State of California. 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. The policies are wrong and illegal," the lawsuit claims.

According to the lawsuit, Google even goes so far as to prohibit employees from publishing creative fiction without the company giving prior approval both to the book idea and the final draft. The lawsuit also says it operates a program called "StopLeaks" that essentially has employees spying on one another. Per the program, they are required to report suspicious activities and any "strange things" they might observe, such as "someone asking you really detailed questions about your project or job."

The lawsuit was filed anonymously as John Doe. It claims that Brian Katz, Google's director of global investigations, falsely informed around 65,000 Google employees that the plaintiff was terminated for leaking information to the press. The lawsuit further alleges that Katz used the plaintiff as a scapegoat to ensure that other employees would continue following the company's illegal policies.