Google's Elite 'Privacy Red Team' Protects Users

Dennis Faas's picture

Google is looking for elite engineers capable of protecting the privacy of the company's users. The nature of the recruitment ads suggests the engineers will be defending users against all threats, even those posed by Google.

The ad is for a "data privacy engineer." It says that the successful recruits will join a team of "back-end ninjas: protecting your privacy, ensuring your security and leaving no trace behind."

Successful applicants will be required to "identify, research, and help resolve potential privacy risks across all of our products, services, and business processes in place today." (Source:

Google Red Team Will Hunt Privacy Flaws

Google notes in the job ad that successful candidates will be working within a "Privacy Red Team."

'Red team' is a phrase commonly used in software security, and refers to a group that works independently of colleagues, actively seeking to challenge the organization in order to improve its effectiveness.

The name is based on "war game" simulations, where one group play the role of enemy forces, often marked in red on battlefield maps.

The goal of this red team is apparently to test various security systems that protect the privacy of Google's users.

Google's use of a 'Privacy Red Team' to concentrate on privacy rather than other aspects of security appears to be a first in the software business, though of course companies don't necessarily publicize their use of such tactics. (Source:

New Tactics Follow Privacy Blunders

Here's the thinking of some observers: software developers and IT administrators may be too close to the products they create and the systems they protect to understand their weaknesses.

Having a team dedicated to intentionally trying to find flaws that could compromise privacy could be a more effective way to identify potential weaknesses, so they can be fixed by Google before they are exploited by fraudsters.

Though Google doesn't mention this in the job advertisement, it's likely the search giant is developing a Red Team strategy in response to several recent privacy scandals.

For example, Google recently paid $22.5 million for misleading users of the Safari browser about its privacy policies: a clear breach of the company's previous promise to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it would be open and honest about such matters.

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