Silicon Valley's ruthless code of secrecy
Behind the colourful bicycles and games rooms, Silicon Valley tech giants operate a strict code of secrecy, relying on a combination of cultural pressure, digital and physical surveillance, legal threats, and restricted stock to prevent and detect not only criminal activity and intellectual property theft but also employees and contracts who speak publicly about their working conditions. Apple has long been known for requiring employees to sign project-specific non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Google and Facebook instead are highly transparent internally, but leaks are ruthlessly punished.
James Damore, the engineer whom Google fired in 2017 after he published a memo criticising the company's approach to diversity, has said he believes he was monitored by the company in his final days there, which the company denies. A European Facebook content moderator showed the Guardian his contract of employment; it gave the company the right to monitor and record his social media activities, including his personal Facebook account, emails, phone calls, and internet use and random personal searches of bags, briefcases, and car while on company premises. Companies are also known to hire external agencies such as Pinkerton to surveil their staff.
Writer: Olivia Solon