July 25, 2017

Google wins battle over employee data

17 July 2017, 11:27 | Ross Houston

Google wins battle over employee data

People with personal Gmail accounts as well as companies using Google software for their email service appear to have been targeted

Google Inc. got a win Friday in its ongoing dispute with the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs over data on pay gaps between men and women at the company.

The audit continues, and what the DoL discovers will reveal if Google is the rare utopia of a tech company without gender discrimination it claims to be.

A judge ruled Friday that Google does not have to give up all data demanded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), due to privacy concerns.

Google has been spared from handing over details of 25,000 employees to the US Department of Labour as part of an ongoing investigation to reports the tech giant discriminated against its female employees by paying them less than their male counterparts.

Citing fears about hacking - and recent cyber attacks on the US government - the court instead recommended the agency seek and obtain from Google the telephone numbers and email addresses from up to 5,000 of its workers, provided the company already has that data in its possession.

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"Over the past year, in connection with this audit alone, we've provided more than 329,000 documents and more than 1.7 million data points, including detailed compensation information, in response to [Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs'] 18 different data requests", Naughton wrote in a blog post. That information if provided to the government "could ease the efforts of malicious hackers or misdirected government employees", he said.

"Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water", DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph said in his closing arguments last month.

Department lawyer Herold took strong issue with Berlin's "totally unsupported opinion" about its discrimination theory, and said the decision represented "pretty much an unqualified victory". "The Department of Labor [.] was recently attacked with ransomware". Those records are at the center of the new ruling, with Google successfully arguing that handing over the additional records breaches privacy laws and could expose staff to identity theft in the event of a government data breach. Google also celebrated the judge's finding that the company's annual merit-based pay raises were "intricately designed" to bring people with the same job and performance rating to the same salary over time. Google did not comply and in an attempt to force it to release the data, the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against the tech giant at the end of a year ago.

A judge on Friday ruled the Labor Department's request for almost two decades of data - including personal information on over 25,000 Google employees - is "unreasonable in that it is over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information".

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