Google has fired an engineer for accessing the user accounts of four minors, according Gawker media. David Barksdale stalked and spied upon the teenagers while working as a Site Reliability Engineer at Google’s Kirkland, WA, office.
“In other cases involving teens of both sexes, Barksdale exhibited a similar pattern of aggressively violating others’ privacy, according to our source. He accessed contact lists and chat transcripts, and in one case quoted from an IM that he’d looked up behind the person’s back. (He later apologized to one for retrieving the information without her knowledge.) In another incident, Barksdale unblocked himself from a Gtalk buddy list even though the teen in question had taken steps to cut communications with the Google engineer.”
What are Site Reliability Engineers? According to Gawker:
“Site Reliability Engineers (or SREs) have access to the company’s most sensitive data. Responsible for a variety of tasks including responding to technical difficulties across Google’s ever-expanding portfolio of products, SREs are given unfettered access to users’ accounts for the services they oversee, according to a former SRE who left the company in 2007.”
Google told Tech Crunch this is the second time it has fired an engineer for privacy violations.
Google says that it is “significantly increasing the amount of time we spend auditing our logs to ensure those controls are effective”.