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Google fires engineer for privacy violation

Big News Network.com (IANS)     Wednesday 15th September, 2010

A Google engineer who allegedly accessed the accounts of several teenagers without their knowledge has been fired for violating its privacy policies, the search engine giant said Wednesday.

David Barksdale, a ‘site reliability engineer’ based in Kirkdale, just north of Seattle in the US, allegedly spied on several minors’ Google accounts without their consent, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The company, based in Mountain View, California, confirmed that Barksdale, 27, was sacked for violating Google’s ‘strict internal privacy policies’. However, it declined to provide further details.

According to reports in America, the engineer allegedly accessed the accounts of four teenagers without their knowledge. It remains unclear how many accounts he accessed.

Barksdale, a self-described ‘hacker’, reportedly met the teenagers at a technology conference in Seattle earlier this year.

According to the site’s sources Barksdale’s actions ‘did not appear to be sexual in nature’ but ‘demonstrated extraordinarily questionable judgment’.

The company’s site reliability engineers can access sensitive company data in order for them to be able to respond to technical problems.

The disclosures come amid a row over the handling of private information collected by Google, the world’s leading web search engine and Facebook, which has more than 500 million members.

Google confirmed the engineer had been sacked in July after his actions were reported to the company via e-mail.

‘We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies,’ Bill Coughran, Google’s senior vice president of engineering, said in a statement.

‘We carefully control the number of employees who have access to our systems and we regularly update our security controls.’

Earlier this year Google was at the centre of a global privacy storm after it admitted that its Street View cars had mistakenly collected information sent over un-encrypted Wi-Fi networks.

It was subjected to a series of international investigations over the crisis after it admitted recording information broadcast via unsecured wireless networks in family homes. Google’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, admitted the company had blundered in the row.

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