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Tech corporations cracking from within: Employees revolting

Published : Saturday, 8 September, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 311
Sarder Farhan Nayeem

Outside the political spotlight, tech workers are standing up to their bosses like never before, pressuring them from the inside with demands and pointed questions that upend the typical power dynamic in corporate America. "I think it took a while for those of us who are computing professionals to lift our heads far enough above what we're doing… to look at how our technologies are being applied or misapplied," said Cherri M. Pancake, a computer science professor at Oregon State University and president of the Association of Computing Machinery, a trade group that claims a membership of 100,000 tech professionals worldwide

Tech employees are also starting to take matters into their own hands by leaking information to journalists. A letter signed by 1,400 employees has circulate within Google demanding that the company explain why it is exploring a re-entry to the Chinese market with a censored search engine, which came to light after the online investigative journalism outlet The Intercept acquired company documents about the project. The article prompted a defense from CEO Sundar Pichai, who said the product was not close to being launched.

And in March, someone at Facebook leaked a 2016 memo that argued the social media company needed to pursue adding users above all else, leading to a debate within the company over the appropriateness of employee leaks. The protests demonstrate the potential power of tech workers, and they add up to an unprecedented level of division in Silicon Valley at the same time that regulators, privacy advocates and lawmakers are criticizing the industry from the outside.

"Many employees in the bowels of the machine are increasingly seeing that, if we pull together, we have power, too, and wherever we can, we should voice our opinions," said Dipayan Ghosh, a former Facebook employee who's now a fellow at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.





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