Google Accused of Silencing Whistle-Blowers
A Google employee is suing the company, claiming it imposed unlawful confidentiality agreements. The plaintiff says staff are banned from speaking out even about illegal activities.
The lawsuit has been filed anonymously and is thus in the name of John Doe. It alleges violations of the Private Attorney Generals Act, which is a technical measure that lets private citizens bring claims against a company for breaching labor laws.
"Doe" claims that although he remains at the company, Google falsely told other Google workers that he had been fired for leaking information to the press.
Gagging Order Extends To Fiction
According to the lawsuit, the confidentiality agreements go beyond protecting Google's commercial interests such as details of how its technology works or ongoing projects. "Doe" says that in effect, staff are not allowed to discuss anything about Google with anyone outside the company, with the rules even going so far that they are specifically banned from writing novels set in a Silicon Valley company. (Source: scribd.com)
Arguably far worse, the lawsuit accused Google of banning staff from discussing illegal activity committed inside Google, with them not even allowed to talk about it with other employees or with company lawyers, particularly in writing. The implication is that Google fears such writing could then be used by prosecutors or opposition lawyers in bringing a case against it.
If the lawsuit proves successful, 75 percent of any penalty would go to the state of California and the remaining money shared out among all Google employees.
Google: Claims Are Baseless
In a media statement Google said that "We will defend this suit vigorously because it's baseless. 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."
The statement went on to read: "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." (Source: mashable.com)
What's Your Opinion?
Do the claims sound plausible? If so, which aspects do you think are reasonable behavior from Google and which go too far? Does the public have a right to know about alleged illegal activity or safety violations?
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