Google is locking down internal communications as the Silicon Valley giant works to contain a rash of leaks, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday, citing anonymous sources inside the company.
Google legal executive Kent Walker sent an email May 9 reminding employees that obtaining documents noted as “need to know” could result in termination, the report noted. Employees reportedly saw it as a blow to Google’s internal accountability mechanisms, especially as the “need to know” designation is left up to interpretation.
The email “could very easily be read as an attempt to scare anyone who might be a whistleblower or organizer,” one employee who requested anonymity told BuzzFeed. “I think it’s clear that organizing around Maven and the walkout would have been much more difficult if these policies had been in place.”
The employee added: “It’s such a clear retreat from the culture of internal openness and transparency which we used to be proud of. It made me more convinced than ever that organizing ourselves as workers is essential, both for our own protection and to make Google the kind of company that we want to work for.”
The company’s weekly meeting, known as TGIF, is no longer being recorded, and executives who attend are no longer taking questions from employees, BuzzFeed News previously reported. Such meetings have been the subject of multiples reports showcasing the internal drama that sometimes pops up within Google’s hallways.
Google employees became angry that the term “family” was used while discussing products aimed at children, according to documents The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained in January. The backlash grew large enough that a Google vice president addressed the controversy and solicited feedback on how the company could become more inclusive.
There were other leaks that prompted the clampdown, in particular leaks about products in China and partnerships with the US military, as well as employee efforts to alter policies on workplace sexual misconduct, among other internal policies. Google was also forced to abandon a program called Dragonfly, which was designed to help China censor content, after employees complained, media reports show.
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