Technology: Google...Oops We Did It Again With Privacy

Google’s global privacy storm took an unexpected ‘technology’ turn earlier this month, when the search engine giant confirmed that it sacked one of its site reliability engineer’s, David Barksdale, aged 27 who allegedly spied on several minors without their consent. Barksdale who is based in Seattle, US was sacked for violating Google's ‘strict internal privacy policies’. Google has declined to provide further details; however, it did act quickly to prevent the incident denting public confidence in its security. While, Barksdale has admitted that he has been fired, but declined to say why, and has stated, "You must have heard some pretty wild things if you think me getting fired is newsworthy."

According to reports in America, the engineer allegedly accessed the accounts of four teenagers without their knowledge. It remains unclear how many accounts he accessed. Barksdale, a self-described hacker, apparently met the teenagers at a technology conference in Seattle earlier this year and in one incident, he accessed call logs from Google’s online phone service, Google Voice, between a 15 year-old and his new girlfriend. Barksdale then demanded to know details about the relationship, but when the teenager, who has not been named, refused Barksdale then accessed the boy’s account. After retrieving the girlfriend's name and phone number, Barksdale then threatened to call her.

Bill Coughran, Google’s senior vice president of engineering, said in a statement, “We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google's strict internal privacy policies. We carefully control the number of employees who have access to our systems and we regularly update our security controls. For example, we are significantly increasing the amount of time we spend auditing our logs to ensure the 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.” The company’s site reliability technology engineers can access sensitive company data in order for them to be able to respond to technical problems, however, Google has refused to reveal how many of its 20,000 employees have access to clients' personal accounts.

These revelations of privacy breaches come as Google is trying to persuade internet users to place trust and divulge even more of their personal information with the company and to use its services for its own big social networking project, Google Me and its other new technology tool called Transparency Report, which publishes where and when Internet traffic to Google sites is blocked. The blockages are annotated with details when possible. Plus, coupled with Google’s row over handling of private information as this spring Google was condemned by the privacy watchdogs of 10 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the UK) for privacy violations made during mapping for its Street View and Buzz feature, saying Google showed a ‘disappointing disregard’ for safeguarding private information of its users.

Photo Credit: dannysullivan