Google and Facebook aren’t just spying on their users.
The two tech behemoths are known for all the creepy ways they pry into the lives of those using their products, but it’s an entirely different group of people who today will be looking over their collective shoulders: their employees.
A March 16 story by The Guardian’s Olivia Solon makes this clear, describing the great lengths to which Facebook and Google will go in order to find and punish any worker who dares to leak information to the press — or just step out of line in any way, generally.
An anonymous (presumably former) employee who spoke with Solon detailed Facebook’s internal “rat-catching” team and the weird physiological games they play on those they’re hunting. Specifically, the employee in question was told he was getting a promotion and led into a room to discuss it — only to find out the entire thing was a ruse and he was very much in the hot seat.
“It’s horrifying how much they know,” he told the paper. “You go into Facebook and it has this warm, fuzzy feeling of ‘we’re changing the world’ and ‘we care about things’. But you get on their bad side and all of a sudden you are face to face with [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg’s secret police.”
And Facebook will go after you even if you leak things not directly related to the product. A prominent example came in 2016 when Gizmodo reported that Mark Zuckerberg had called out employees for crossing out “Black Lives Matter” from a company wall meant for writing physical messages and replacing it with “All Lives Matter.”
“We’ve never had rules around what people can write on our walls,” wrote Zuckerberg in an internal post obtained by Gizmodo. “We expect everybody to treat each other with respect.”
You can guess what happened next. According to Wired, Zuckerberg had the person who leaked his message about respect and tolerance found and fired.
“The counterbalance to giving you this huge trusting environment is if anyone steps out of line, they’ll squash you like a bug,” The Guardian’s anonymous source told the paper.
With Facebook in particular, this isn’t exactly news to those in Silicon Valley. However, just because Zuckerberg’s “secret police” are whispered about doesn’t mean they’re warmly embraced.
And Facebook isn’t alone. Google, the self-proclaiming “don’t be evil” conglomerate that has wormed its way into all of our lives has a similar stance on company leakers: find and punish.
“If you’re considering sharing confidential information to a reporter – or to anyone externally – for the love of all that’s Googley, please reconsider,” wrote the company’s former head of internal investigations, Brian Katz, in a 2016 company-wide email. “Not only could it cost you your job, but it also betrays the values that makes [sic] us a community.”
Yeah, about those values. The Guardian further reported (and you should really read the entire story) that Google employs the services of a company called Pinkerton. What does Pinkerton do? Well, they send people to physically monitor and spy on employees outside of their office — like in coffee shops — for one.
That two of the most valuable companies in the world, who just so happen to have made their vast fortunes by collecting massive amounts of personal information about their users, also take a dim view of the privacy rights of their own employees should perhaps come as no surprise. Still, it’s worth keeping in mind the next time you hear about those sunny Silicon Valley campuses. Because behind all the free food and wonderful perks lurk a few paranoid and powerful kings who see it as their right to squash any employee who dares to stand in their way.
And, perhaps, that should make you consider just what exactly the Zuckerbergs and Sundar Pichais of the world think of privacy for little old you.