06:32 GMT +322 November 2019
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    A woman holds tthe Google Pixel 4 phone during a Google product launch event called 'Made by Google 19' in New York City on October 15, 2019

    Google Creating ‘Anti-Spam’ Tool Which Actually Allows Management to Keep Tabs on Employees - Report

    © AFP 2019 / JOHANNES EISELE
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    The Mountain View, California-based tech giant has been roiling from a series of privacy-related scandals in recent months, with former UK GCHQ director David Omand recently suggesting that the company had collected more personal information on people than any intelligence agency has ever had or should have.

    A small group of Google engineers is working on an internal tool they say is meant to fight spam filling up employees’ calendars, but which is really aimed at preventing staff from attempts to organise protests or discuss labour rights, Bloomberg has reported, citing an internal memo.

    According to the memo, the new tool, which is automatically installed on all work computers’ custom Google Chrome browsers and cannot be removed, reports any employee creating a calendar event using 10 or more rooms or 100 or more employees, and is really “an attempt of leadership to immediately learn about any workers’ organisation attempts.”

    The memo was provided to Bloomberg by an anonymous employee, and has since been reviewed by three others.

    ‘Categorically False’

    However, Alphabet Inc, the holding company which owns Google, adamantly denies the ‘spying’ allegations. “These claims about the operation and purpose of this extension are categorically false. This is a pop-up reminder that asked people to be mindful before auto-adding a meeting to the calendars of large numbers of employees,” a spokesperson for the company explained.

    According to Google, the browser extension does not collect any personal information at all, and is being developed to fight a growing amount of spam flooding employees’ calendars.

    The US tech giant has faced problems in recent months amid efforts by some of its employees to unionize, with management failing to shut down a unionization meeting in its Zurich office this week. Late last month, about 80 white collar workers from HCL Technologies, a Google subcontractor in Pittsburgh, voted to join United Steelworkers in an unprecedented move. However, these efforts have so far affected just a tiny sliver of Google’s employees, which numbered some 98,500 as of late 2018, not to mention the estimated 121,000 temporary, vendor and contract workers employed by the company worldwide.

    Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.
    © AP Photo / Paul Sakuma
    Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

    Google employees have become increasingly vocal about the company’s activities over the past year and a half, speaking out against alleged censorship of the company’s China operations, against cooperation with the US military in analyzing drone footage using artificial intelligence, and expressing their views on workplace culture amid reports of sexual harassment by highly paid executives.

    The company has faced a bevy of privacy-related scandals, with independent watchdog googlemonitor.com counting nearly three dozen scandals of this sort by late 2018. Just last month, the company was forced to adopt new security measures to Google Assistant, the voice command-activated search system, after it was discovered that the software recorded conversations not intended to activate the program, and that company employees had engaged in the systematic mishandling of user data.

    Earlier this month, former UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) director David Omand warned that major tech companies like Google and Facebook now have more information on private citizens than any intelligence agency, and called this state of affairs “a major threat to democracy.”

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