Google engineer sacked for snooping
Google has admitted it fired an engineer earlier this year because he had breached the company’s privacy guidelines.
In a case that highlights the ease with which privileged employees can gain access to highly personal details, Google’s admission that it had dismissed David Barksdale follows reports that the engineer had snooped into children’s accounts.
Reports claimed the site reliability engineer had abused his position to access the accounts – including Google phone services – of four children in California.
He was sacked after parents brought the incidents to the company’s attention.
“We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies,” said a Google spokesman in a statement. “We carefully control the number of employees who have access to our systems. 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.”
The news follows allegations – originally made by news website Gawker – that the 27-year-old had repeatedly broken into the accounts of four children before he was fired in July.
“It’s unclear how widespread Barksdale’s abuses were, but in at least four cases, Barksdale spied on minors’ Google accounts without their consent, according to a source close to the incidents,” Gawker reported.
“In an incident this spring involving a 15-year-old boy he’d befriended, Barksdale tapped into call logs from Google Voice after the boy refused to tell him the name of his new girlfriend. After accessing the kid’s account to retrieve her name and phone number, Barksdale then taunted the boy and threatened to call her.”
The report said Barksdale’s interest was not thought to be sexual, but with increasing amounts of data stored with numerous online services it is a stark warning that companies need to keep a close eye on employees.
Google declined to comment on whether Barksdale had broken into childrens’ accounts.