Adrian Chen of Gawker is reporting that a Google engineer accessed private user information from Google’s systems and then used it to stalk teenagers.
The engineer, David Barksdale, was fired from Google in July.
This is a very serious issue: behaviour like this is terrifying for anyone who trusts a company like Google with their personal information.
If Gawker’s information is wrong, therefore, Google should immediately say so.
If Gawker’s information is correct, meanwhile, Google needs to acknowledge what happened, explain what its response was, and describe the steps it has taken to assure users that this won’t happen again.
This is too serious an issue to hide behind a no comment.
UPDATE: To its credit, Google has now responded:
Bill Coughran, Senior Vice President, Engineering:
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”.