Google employees question surveillance tool that detects large worker meetings

Google employees on Wednesday accused the tech giant of building a digital surveillance tool they say could be used to interfere with attempts to organize protests or other labor-related gatherings.

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At least four employees raised concerns about a plug-in for an internal version of the Google Chrome web browser that would detect any attempt to schedule a calendar event with more than 10 rooms or 100 invitees and automatically report it to management, Bloomberg reported. The employees argue that the tool is meant to crack down on labor organization efforts.

“These claims about the operation and purpose of this extension are categorically false,” Google said in a statement to FOX Business. “This is a pop-up reminder that asks people to be mindful before auto-adding a meeting to the calendars of large numbers of employees.”

Google said the tool was developed to cut down on a recent increase in internal spam, including event invitations and emails that were sent to large groups of employees. The tool underwent a review for privacy, security and legal concerns ahead of launch and is not intended to block use of calendar invites, the company added.

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Allegations regarding the surveillance tool were detailed in a memo written by a Google employee who argued it was “an attempt of leadership to immediately learn about any workers organization attempts.” The tool is said to not be removable once installed on computers.

Employees first learned about the tool in September and have reacted with a mixture of mockery and criticism, according to the report.

Google workers have raised concerns about company leadership’s handling of various issues in recent months. Thousands of employees in company offices around the world staged walkouts in November 2018 to protest Google’s response to claims of sexual misconduct by multiple executives. At the time, Google CEO Sundar Pichai expressed support for the demonstrators.

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Google has also faced criticism over its apparent work to build a censored search engine for China. Company executives confirmed earlier this year that the project had been abandoned.

Google is one of several tech giants currently under investigation by federal antitrust officials.