Most companies have their own trade secrets — stuff that they’d prefer their competitors don’t know. Most companies also have some form of NDA, or confidentiality agreement that they ask their employees to sign so as to prevent loose lips from sinking ships, as it were. One Google product manager, known only as John Doe in the recently filed lawsuit, alleges that Google goes just a bit too far with their confidentiality policies.
The heart of the lawsuit alleges that Google is breaching California labor laws. Many of the cited infractions revolve around privacy, and the lengths the company will go to in order to keep nearly every aspect of the company secret. The suit alleges that Google asks employees to spy on one another, reporting any potential infractions, or employees that may have leaked information.
Employees are even asked not to write down or email any concerns regarding illegal activity, not even to the company’s legal department, because of the fear that any written communication could be used by law enforcement or federal regulators. One cannot even write “a novel about someone working at a tech company in Silicon Valley” without Google signing off on the final draft. The suit continues to allege that employees are prohibited from “disclosing ‘confidential information’ [which means everything at Google] without authorization.”
The suit outlines 12 alleged infractions, which would result in a maximum fine of $3.8 billion. The vast majority of any penalty (75%) would be collected by the state, with any remainder being dispersed among Google’s employees. If the full penalty is handed down — which let’s all be honest, probably won’t be —each employee would see about $14,600 after the state takes its cut.
This whole situation is kind of crazy, but not exactly all that surprising. The very first line of the complaint may be the most damning though:
Google’s motto is “don’t be evil.” Google’s illegal confidentiality agreements, policies, and practices fail this test.
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