Google workers say NDAs ban whistleblowing, violate free speech

  • Google contractors¬†alleged in a lawsuit that they were required to sign illegal nondisclosure agreements that prevented them from whistleblowing and violated their free speech rights.
  • According to a California court’s discussion of the legal proceedings, the workers claimed Google’s rules barred them from reporting “violations of state and federal law,” “unsafe or discriminatory working conditions,” and “wage and hour violations.”
  • The workers, some of whom were employed via the staffing agency Adecco, claimed they couldn’t even write “novels” or “reassure their parents they are making enough money to pay their bills.”
  • Google’s contract workers have increasingly raised issues over how they’re treated compared to full-time employees.
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Google contractors have alleged in a lawsuit that they’re required to sign illegal nondisclosure agreements that violate their rights of “competition, whistleblowing, and freedom of speech” under California law.

In the lawsuit, which a California appellate court discussed in a ruling last week, the workers accused Google and Adecco, the staffing agency through which some of them were employed, of violating their legal rights to discuss a range of workplace issues.

Google and Adecco did not respond to requests for comment.

“Google’s confidentiality rules prevent employees from disclosing violations of state and federal law, either within Google to their managers or outside Google to private attorneys or government officials,” they alleged, according to the court, including “disclosing information about unsafe or discriminatory working conditions, or about wage and hour violations.”

“They are forbidden even to write a novel about working in Silicon Valley or to reassure their parents they are making enough money to pay their bills, matters untethered to any legitimate need for confidentiality,” the court said of the workers.

The contracts also allegedly barred employees from talking about the “skills, knowledge, and experience they

Twitter says monitoring service does not violate surveillance ban

Twitter said Tuesday a service that monitors tweets for police, alerting them to brewing social justice protests and more, does not break the platform’s ban on being used for surveillance.

Twitter defended letting the service, Dataminr, tap into the flow of public tweets to send alerts to police or other government agencies about plans for protests or civil disobedience, such as those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Twitter prohibits the use of our developer services for surveillance purposes. Period,” a spokesman for the San Francisco-based company said in reply to an AFP inquiry.

“We see a societal benefit in public Twitter data being used for news alerting, first responder support, and disaster relief.”

The stance provokes a debate as to what exactly constitutes surveillance.

Dataminr is a social media-monitoring service that uses artificial intelligence to comb platforms such as Twitter for user-determined keywords.

In recent months, Dataminr has provided government clients with alerts that include Twitter handles of those posting messages about protest plans or where activists are blocking streets, according to a Wall Street Journal report that cited seeing email copies of alerts.

A Dataminr service called First Alert “notifies first responders about critical events as they’re happening, minimizing response time and enabling them to act quickly and confidently,” according to a post at the company’s website.

First Alert relies on public tweets and was built with input from Twitter. Controls were built in to comply with a Twitter policy against surveillance, according to the social media platform.

Twitter said it does not prohibit alerting information about what is happening that can be gleaned from public tweets.

Protests and discussions about the Black Lives Matter movement are major topics on Twitter.

Threat alerts that can keep people out of danger or help support first responders can focus