Google Fires Employee Accused Of Spying On Kids

For a Google engineer who was fired in July, it apparently wasn’t enough just to Google people in order to stalk them. Instead, he allegedly abused his access and violated the company’s privacy policies to snoop on users.

Valleywag reports the man spied on four teenagers, peeking in on emails, chats and Google Talk call logs for several months before the company discovered what was going on.

A Google spokesman confirmed the firing to Valleywag:

“We dismissed [redacted] for breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies. We carefully control the number of employees who have access to our systems, and we regularly upgrade our security controls-for example, we are significantly increasing the amount of time we spend auditing our logs to ensure those controls are effective. That said, a limited number of people will always need to access these systems if we are to operate them properly-which is why we take any breach so seriously.”

TechCrunch reports the firing marks the second time the company has canned someone for privacy violations.

GCreep: Google Engineer Stalked Teens, Spied on Chats (Updated) [Valleywag]


Edit Your Comment

  1. humphrmi says:

    Why the redacted name? The linked article has not only his name, but pictures of him.

  2. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    TechCrunch reports the firing marks the second time the company has canned someone for privacy violations.

    That we know of. I can’t imagine that Google is going to announce it every time the fire someone.

  3. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    No mention of the fact that the people he spied on were people he knew/met IRL? Why that alone is creepy enough, that he hung out with tweens is even creepier, IMHO. Besides, how did he translate tween chat into English? Did he have some special translator?

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Creepy McCreepersons got even creepier once I started reading the article.

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      Wow, no kidding. I’m kinda creeped out by Google in general (Cyberdyne Systems, anyone?) but this is beyond that. The picture of him smiling over his laptop…I dunno, gave me the crawlies for some reason.

  5. TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

    If one of these kids was mine this guy would have a lot more to worry about than just the loss of his job….

  6. myCatCracksMeUp says:

    I don’t use Google. I use my ISP (Cox) email and I use yahoo for search, and I use Bing Maps, which I like a lot better. Google gives me the willies.

    I wish there were strong laws to protect consumers from being spied on while on the internet. Sadly that will never happen.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      On one hand, I can see how you might interpret Google as being omnipresent or omniscient, but your ISP probably knows everything you’re doing anyway and has your account information and your email, and Bing Maps probably knows where you’ve been.

      • myCatCracksMeUp says:

        But I don’t have a Bing account. Is there such a thing? So the map searches are separate from anything else about me. I also keep my browser in Private mode, which helps a little, and clean out the cache every day. And Cox doesn’t offer other services with which to associate with my account. But, in the end it probably doesn’t help much.

        • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

          Not having an account helps, but your IP address already tells a lot of people a ton of information. Also, cleaning out the cache is nice if you’re afraid that other people will spy on your time spent on the My Little Pony Fan Page, but it won’t do much to protect your information otherwise.

        • Archon286 says:

          Unfortunately, it doesn’t. A recent study by the EFF showed they were able to correctly re-identify 99% of returning users just based on the simple information your computer gives up accessing a website. (no cookies involved) Check out this episode of “Security Now!”

          It just uses things like header information, the versions of various parts of your browser and OS, all these create a fingerprint, and companies exist to help others track and use this information.

  7. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    I’m sure someone will tell me I’m just paranoid, but this is why it bothers me that companies like Google have access to so much of our information.

    • LandruBek says:

      I don’t think it’s paranoia at all; it’s not irrational to be wary when these companies have lots of “rational” reasons to abuse their users’ trust.

      Translation: “rational” in quotes means in order to pursue making unreasonably obscene amounts of money.

    • peebozi says:

      i’m not worried about google as much as the humans they employ.

  8. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    “But as this disturbing incident suggests, the biggest threat to kids’ privacy might be Google employees themselves.”

    Yellow “journalism” at its finest.

  9. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I don’t know that this guy is a sexual predator as much as he’s a power tripping asshole who harassed kids because he figured he could get away with treating kids like this as opposed to an adult who would have reported this immediately.

  10. stormbird says:

    Back in the 90s, I was playing a play-by-email-game* where we kicked out a player for being a jerk. He worked for the list server and canceled our accounts and list several times and tried to get our personal passwords. We presented the evidence to the company several times and didn’t even get a ‘taking it seriously’. I just checked and the company was bought out by… Google. Huh.

    * Why, yes, I am a nerd. Why do you ask?

  11. KennyS says:

    I’m in IT at a major Medical Center in NYC. I have access to a lot of information but can lose my job if I even look at information that I don’t need, let alone do anything with it. People keep getting fired here for just looking at celebraties data.

  12. dreamfish says:

    I suppose we have to accept this as a hazard of modern life, especially if we are going to entrust more of our personal lives to Google.

    However, much as we might want, sysadmin types will still need direct access to this sort of stuff for support purposes so it is difficult to see how you can restrict it (and BTW that applies to IT support in your own company as much as Google, so I don’t think they should be singled out).

  13. spamtasticus says:

    “We check the logs” … lol that is rich. Dear Google, if he has the level of access to do what he did, he also is likely to have the level of access to modify the logs.

    • ben says:

      That’s not necessarily true. Audit logs are most likely protected by an even higher level of security that only a limited number of people have access to, and most likely they’re read-only anyway.

  14. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    “Ironically, just last week Google launched its Family Safety Center, dedicated to helping parents keep their children safe on the Internet. But as this disturbing incident suggests, the biggest threat to kids’ privacy might be Google employees themselves.”

    Oh jeez, paaaleeeeze, one single GCreep is not the biggest threat. Any spyware vermin easily out does this guy and all other Google employees combined.