Google Admits Firing Engineer Over Data Breach

Already in hot water over its privacy policies, Google (GOOG:NASDAQ) disclosed a privacy breach that led the Internet titan to can a software engineer.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Bill Coughran, senior vice president of engineering, confirmed the firing of software engineer David Barksdale for “breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies.”

Barksdale, who worked in Google’s Seattle offices, allegedly accessed information of several users who were minors, the Journal reported, citing a Google spokeswoman.

According to Gawker, which first reported the story, Barskdale, 27, repeatedly took advantage of his position to access users’ accounts, violating the privacy of at least four minors during his tenure. In one incident reported by Gawker, Barksdale tapped into call logs from Google’s Internet phone service of a 15-year-old boy who he had befriended after the boy refused to tell him the name of his girlfriend.

Barskdale also reportedly accessed contact lists and chat transcripts and once unblocked himself from a Google chat buddy list with a teen who had blocked him. While Barksdale’s harassment didn’t appear to be sexual in nature, it did demonstrate questionable judgment, Gawker reported.

“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," Goughran said, the Journal reported.

Google has been the target of probes from regulators for a privacy incident in February related to its release of Buzz and for what it has called the inadvertent collection of personal data on unsecured Wi-Fi Internet networks.

Google’s stock was little changed on the news, falling 0.4% to $478.30 ahead of Wednesday’s opening bell.