Google Hires Hackers as Engineers

An article from Gawker shows how shocking it can be to learn that you’ve entrusted your systems to an internal hacker. David Barksdale was fired from Google for stalking and cyberbullying some children, mostly because he simply could.

From Gawker here:

A Google engineer spied on four underage teens for months before the company was notified of the abuses.

David Barksdale, a 27-year-old former Google engineer, repeatedly took advantage of his position as a member of an elite technical group at the company to access users’ accounts, violating the privacy of at least four minors during his employment. Barksdale met the kids through a technology group in the Seattle area while working as a Site Reliability Engineer at Google’s Kirkland, Wash. office. He was fired in July 2010 after his actions were reported to the company.

In at least four cases, Barksdale spied on minors’ Google accounts without their consent. In an incident this spring involving a 15-year-old boy who he’d befriended, Barksdale tapped into call logs from Google Voice, Google’s Internet phone service, after the boy refused to tell him the name of his new girlfriend. After accessing the kid’s account to retrieve her name and phone number, Barksdale then taunted the boy and threatened to call her.

In other cases involving teens of both sexes, Barksdale exhibited a similar pattern of aggressively violating others’ privacy. He accessed contact lists and chat transcripts, and in one case quoted from an IM that he’d looked up behind the person’s back. (He later apologized to one for retrieving the information without her knowledge.) In another incident, Barksdale unblocked himself from a Gtalk buddy list even though the teen in question had taken steps to cut communications with the Google engineer.

Barksdale’s harassment did not appear to be sexual in nature, although his online communication with the minors (such as inviting underage kids to attend to the movies with him) demonstrated extraordinarily questionable judgment on Barksdale’s part.

A self-described “hacker,” Barksdale seemed to get a kick out of flaunting his position at Google.

Don’t trust Google as a provider of anything sensitive, folks. I use Gmail as an online alias to subscribe to disposable internet services and to receive google alerts on news items. If Google goes away tomorrow, I’ve lost no data I care about, or if they get hacked, I am not exposed to any personal data theft or privacy breach. Remember when Google’s motto was “don’t be evil?” Now it’s “there is no evil.”

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