Google Fired Engineer for Privacy Violations

Google confirmed it fired an engineer for violating its privacy policies following a media report the employee had been let go for spying on the Google accounts of teenagers.

Google confirmed today one of its engineers has been fired for violating the company's privacy rules.

The acknowledgment followed a media report that Google employee David Barksdale accessed the accounts of several teenagers in violation of Google policies. According to Gawker, Barksdale was let go in July for abusing his position as a site reliability engineer in Google's Kirkland, Wash., office by spying on the minors' Google accounts, including accessing Google Voice call logs records and Google Chat transcripts.

Barksdale was fired after Google received complaints about the situation, Gawker reported.

"Site reliability engineers [SREs] are responsible for a variety of tasks, including responding to technical problems across Google's product portfolio, and as such have unfettered access to users' accounts for the services they oversee," Gawker quoted a former Google SRE as saying.

In a statement, Bill Coughran, senior vice president of engineering at Google, said Barksdale had been fired 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," he added. "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."