I would hope not, but in fact there seems to be no effective mechanism in place to keep in check a not insignificant number of Google engineers who have full access to everyone’s gMail contents and other private information. And, there is always David Barksdale.
David Barksdale was one such engineer. He fell in with a group of teenagers via a technology group, and used his powers to access pretty much anything he wanted to taunt and play with them like some kind of eight grade bully might taunt and play with “The Sevvies.” Although there is a certain sexual overtone to what Barksdale did on occasion, this does not appear to be a case of sexual predation. Creepy, strange, and utterly out of line, yes.
Even more disturbing is the outcome of the case. Barksdale was quietly dismissed by Google. Do we actually live in a world where major corporations can promise a certain degree of privacy, but when they violate that privacy, there is no legal ramifications whatsoever? Do we actually live in a world where a major “too big to fail” company like Google gets the same pass as, say, the Catholic Church, when one of their own does something like this? Here is Google’s statement after the fact:
“We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies. We carefully control the number of employees who have access to our systems, and we regularly upgrade our security controls-for example, we are significantly increasing the amount of time we spend auditing our logs to ensure those controls are effective. That said, a limited number of people will always need to access these systems if we are to operate them properly-which is why we take any breach so seriously.”
Sorry Google, we are not impressed. We’d like to see an independent investigation, possible prosecution, and who knows, maybe some new laws and regulations.
Because, you know, the cockroach theory may apply here. If you can see one, there are a thousand more you can’t see.
This entire story is covered in gruesome detail at Gawker. I urge you to read it.