A senior former Google employee who quit over its controversial plans to launch a search engine in China painted a picture of a company whose upper echelons are obsessed with stopping leaks, to the exclusion of almost anything else.
Jack Poulson, a former researcher at the company, said that senior managers consider the prevention of leaks to be their “number one priority.”
In comments reported on Saturday by The Times of London, Poulson cited as an example of the anti-leak culture an an unnamed senior engineer taking the microphone at an all-hands meeting to yell “F— you leakers” at his colleagues.
He said that the campaign against leaking had become a way for Google to avoid tackling the reasons staff were leaking in the first place, including concerns over the Chinese search project, code-named Dragonfly, or work for the US military.
Poulson left Google in September over Dragonfly, and said he believed four other employees had done the same. Google declined to comment on his departure at the time.
He said, according to The Times: “The narrative is that leaking is bad and that the number one priority is to prevent any leaks.”
Poulson said that Google was not alone in trying to suppress employee revolts, pointing to similar movements at Microsoft and Amazon. He said the back-and-forth between workers and executives is not “going to be a short battle.”
Business Insider has reported previously on the culture of extreme secrecy at Google.
A lawsuit filed against the company in late 2016 alleged that employees have to sign a confidentiality agreement which even prevents them talking to a lawyer about what goes on at Google.
It describes an internal program, called “stopleaks”, to which it says employees are encouraged to report their own leaks, and those of colleagues.
“Stopleaks” was referenced again in an internal email that was made public in May 2017 as part of the same lawsuit, this time in an email from the head of Google’s internal investigations unit.
In September of this year, Business Insider reported that Google was tightening its security still further, clamping down on access to its weekly all-hands meeting, known as TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) for employees not physically at its Silicon Valley HQ.
It came after a video of employees lamenting the election of Donald Trump was leaked to the right-wing news site Breitbart, fuelling politically toxic accusations that the search engine is biased.
Business Insider has contacted Google for comment on Poulson’s comments.