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Google contractors and temps lost access to Google Group forums

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Google walkoutTroy Wolverton/Business Insider
  • Last April, Google‘s contract, vendor, and temporary workers — known as TVCs — were barred from all internal chat forums running on the company’s Google Groups software, former TVCs told Business Insider. 
  • The company cited security concerns as the reason for locking TVCs out of the Google Groups forums — a former TVC told us. 
  • The decision had a “chilling effect” on the contractor community across Google, isolating them from their full-time counterparts and holding them back from being able to carry out “essential” work. 
  • You can only do half of your job,” another former TVC said. 
  • Equal access to information was one of the main demands from TVCs during walkouts in November.

Google’s efforts to boost security and clamp down on leaks is deepening a rift between full time employees and the tens of thousands of contractors who toil alongside them everyday, with some of the contractors complaining that they’ve been locked out of internal systems necessary for their jobs. 

In April, Google‘s contract, vendor, and temporary workers — referred to within the company as TVCs — were barred from all internal chat forums running on Google Groups, three former TVC workers told Business Insider recently. 

The company cited security concerns as the reason for locking TVCs out of the Google Groups forums — one TVC who worked at YouTube at the time told us.  The decision, he said, had a “chilling effect” on the contractor community across Google. 

“They may have contained confidential information,” the former YouTube TVC explained. “But there were also Groups such as food forums, Overwatch forums, Tesla forums — things that would generally bring the community together and things that would actually allow full-time employees and TVCs to collaborate and boost morale. So I think that actually in a way, whether it was intentional or not, [the ban] had a chilling effect on the TVCs.”

Feelings of social isolation aside though, some of the contract workers say the exclusion from Google Groups makes it impossible for them to perform their core job responsibilities. At a company like Google, where many employees begin as TVCs and hope to impress their managers enough to get hired full time, the rule changes have become a growing cause of distress and unease. 

One former Google TVC told us that he was blocked from Google Groups that were “essential” to his work and felt fortunate that his manager advocated for him to obtain the access he needed. That same manager also helped the TVC gain permission to book meeting rooms.  

Another former Google TVC said she had a different experience with her manager and “wasn’t able to get access to a lot of their systems.” As a result, she said, “you can only do half of your job.”

A Google spokesperson confirmed with Business Insider that TVCs were limited in their access to Google Groups in an effort to reduce security vulnerabilities. The spokesperson also said TVCs are provided access to the resources needed to succeed in their assignment at Google.

“We hire Google employees to work on jobs that are core to our business, and look to temps, vendors and contractors when we either don’t have the expertise or infrastructure ourselves, or when we need temporary help due to employee leaves or short-term projects,” a Google spokesperson told Business Insider. “Temps, vendors and contractors are an important part of our extended workforce, but they are employed by other companies, not Google.” 

‘We were 2nd class citizens’

Equal access to information was one of the main demands of TVCs during the November employee walkouts and the subsequent letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

In the letter, TVCs wrote, in part: “We need transparency, accountability, and structural change to ensure equity for all Google workers… We want access to town hall discussions; all communications about safety, discrimination, and sexual misconduct; and a reinstatement of our access to internal forums like Google Groups.”

Other demands included better pay, high-quality healthcare, and paid vacations. 

Read more: Google denies claims that it didn’t alert contractors about the active shooter at YouTube — but at least one temp says it’s a ‘big fat lie’

Google’s practice of hiring temps and contractors in place of full-time employees has often been criticized as the company’s way to cushion its bottom line at the expense of its workers. TVCs generally don’t receive the many perks and benefits entitled to full timers, from paid vacations and sick days to bonuses. 

The former TVCs we spoke with all confirmed feelings of discrimination at certain times while working for Google. From not being able to invite friends or family for lunch, to physically having to wear a red badge — which the company again maintains is for security reasons — there was an “overall feeling that we were 2nd class citizens,” one TVC told us. 

Another said having to wear the red badge and being a TVC “almost feels like a sense of shame.” 

Got a tip?  Contact this reporter via Signal at +1 (209) 730-3387, email at nbastone@businessinsider.com, or Twitter DM at @nickbastone.

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Putin wants his own private internet

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New Russian laws could soon isolate the country’s Runet from the rest of the internet as it seeks to tighten its grip on the information that flows in and out of the country.

A new bill, backed by President Vladimir Putin and Moscow lawmakers, is currently being pushed through parliament which would create a single command post from which local authorities can manage and even halt information flowing across the internet in Russia.

The country’s so called “Sovereign Internet” bill is being portrayed by Putin as a defensive response to the Trump Administration’s new cyber strategy that would allow the US to launch offensive measures against Russia and any other nation states known for committing nefarious activities online.

Andrei Soldatov, author of “The Red Web: The Kremlin’s Wars on the Internet”, told Bloomberg that he thinks the law isn’t aimed at foreign threats but at quelling civil unrest, saying:

“This law isn’t about foreign threats, or banning Facebook and Google, which Russia can already do legally. It’s about being able to cut off certain types of traffic in certain areas during times of civil unrest.” 

Sovereign internet

The law, currently in draft form, was co-authored by KGB veteran Andrei Lugovoi who’s wanted in the UK for the murder of a renegade agent, is actually a mixture of several bills, some of which have been in development for years.

According to Putin, the ultimate goal is to ensure that the Runet continues to function in the event that the US tries to block Russia from accessing the rest of the internet.

If the bill does pass, the country would install special boxes with tracking software at the thousands of exchange points that link it to the rest of the web. These units would feed data into a central nerve center from which regulators could analyze web traffic and reroute traffic that they do not deem appropriate for the Russian populace.

Russian censorship has grown stronger in recent years and if Putin has his way, the country’s internet will soon resemble that of China’s where access to the outside web is blocked by the Great Firewall.

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The Internet Has Become A ‘Completely Out-Of-Control Monster,’ Warns Successor Of Man Who Created It

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Nearly 30 years ago a group of scientists at a Swiss physics institution came up with a novel idea to share data and work between themselves across the globe. The groundbreaking concept was the brainchild of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whose vision for a “decentralized information management system” eventually gave birth to the world wide web.

Fast forward three decades and the internet has invaded all corners of the globe and governs all areas of life. It has become a power without equal. Some have suggested it has become a Frankenstein’s monster which needs to be reined in, and fast

One such person is Francois Fluckiger, the man who would become Sir Tim’s successor at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

The Daily Mail reports that Fluckiger believes fake news, privacy threats, and online bullying have all conspired to turn the internet into a “completely out-of-control monster.”

When Sir Tim left CERN’s web team in 1994, Fluckiger picked up the reins. He has since retired, and although he has hailed the web as one of the three major inventions of the 20th century, he believes it has morphed into something almost unrecognizable from its early days.

“One has to ask oneself if we did not, in the end, create a completely out-of-control monster,” said Fluckiger.

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Bali’s silent day: No flights, internet on New Year

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Bali’s airport will close for 24 hours, the internet will be turned off and streets emptied as the island in Indonesia observes its New Year with an annual day of silence.

‘Nyepi’ begins at 6 AM on Thursday, clearing beaches and all public spaces of people except for special patrols to ensure silence is observed. For the second year, phone companies will turn off the mobile internet on the island, home to more than four million people.

Balinese will stay indoors, covering windows and keeping lights off for the day of reflection.

“A day of silence to mark Saka (Balinese calendar) New Year for us is an opportunity to restart life with a pure heart,” said Wayan Gota, a hotel manager in Kuta, one of the island’s tourist hotspots.

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