Google workers accused the company of having developed an internal surveillance tool that, they say, will be used to control workers’ attempts to organize to debate and protest about labour rights, according to Bloomberg.
Employees claim to have discovered a built-in device that was creating a new tool for a custom version of Chrome, the company’s browser that all employees have installed on their computers.
These concerns were reflected in an internal memorandum accessed by three multinational employees whose identities have remained anonymous. The staff is not authorized to speak with the press about Google’s practices regarding internal surveillance.
This tool, according to a document, automatically warns when some employees create an event on the calendar with more than 100 participants or more than 10 rooms.
The most plausible explanation, according to this memo, would be that this tool constitutes “an attempt by Google to immediately find out about any attempt at organization by employees.”
An Alphabet spokesman said that these “statements about the operation and its purpose are categorically false.”
This is a pop-up reminder that asks the staff to be aware before adding meetings to calendars shared by a large number of workers.”
Thus, according to the company, this extension is the consequence of a rise in spam from events in corporate calendars and does not collect personally identifiable information, nor hinder its use.
This controversy constitutes another chapter in the growing tension between the company and employees of higher ranks.
Employees of the Swiss subsidiary of Google are trying to establish a company committee. On October 21, the staff organized a meeting with this objective and, according to Bloomberg, the company tried to stop it without success.
In Pittsburgh, about 90 employees of HCL America, a subcontractor of Google, voted in late September to join the powerful United Steel Workers (USW).
The result was not, unanimous, with 49 votes in favour and 24 against. These workers, of course, represent a less than negligible part of the subcontracted workforce in the shadow of the company -135,000 outsourced employees compared to 115,000 in payrolls.
Some of these workers recently complained to The Guardian about low wages, short break times, lack of management response and a constant feeling of precariousness.
In the last year and a half, a good part of the workforce has also protested the way in which management reacted when dealing with complaints of sexual harassment and against some internal projects, as a search engine with censorship mechanisms devised for China and a contract reached with the Pentagon to analyze images captured by drones.
The internal memo collected by Bloomberg suggests that this new Chrome extension is intended to help Google employees apply the new “community guidelines,” which discourage employees from discussing politics, a change in their openly famous culture.
A spokeswoman for the company explained in August that the company was also developing a tool to allow employees to mark problematic internal publications and create a team of moderators to monitor conversations in the company’s chats.