A Google Site Reliability Engineer was fired in July after an internal investigation by the company that confirmed that he violated the privacy of several underage users.
David Barksdale, the fired 27-year old Google employee, seemingly abused his power to access various information located in the users’ accounts and used it to demonstrate his power over at least four minors who were members of same technological group as him.
He allegedly accessed the accounts, contact lists and chat transcripts, call logs from Google Voice and, in one instance, removed the block that one of the minors set up on Gtalk in order to cut communications with him. He used the information found in the accounts to taunt the victims and to demonstrate his power, but according to a Gawker source, the harassment seems not have been sexual in nature.
When contacted, Barksdale refused to comment on anything, saying only that Gawker must have heard some pretty wild things if it thought that him getting fired was newsworthy.
Google issued a statement that confirmed that Barksdale was fired for breaking its 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,” says Bill Coughran, Senior VP of Engineering at Google. “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.”
If the company was unaware of the privacy violation until they received the complains, they should definitely use this incident as an indication that security controls must be reviewed.