Google fires employee for online stalking users

google instant offers predictive searches as you type“We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies,” said Bill Coughran, Google senior vice president of engineering, in a statement.

The employee in question was fired in July for illegally accessing data in several teenagers’ accounts, according to Gawker.

The site reliability engineer met four teens through a technology group. He accessed their Google Voice call logs, Gmail contact lists, and Google Chat transcripts. In one case, he allegedly unblocked himself from one teen’s GTalk buddy list when that teen tried to cut off contact, Gawker said. It’s unclear whether his snooping involved more people.

Concerned parents reported their children were being harassed to Google. The stalking apparently did not have a sexual component.

This kind of online stalking and snooping is a little frightening, considering the amount of personal information people post about themselves online and the gold mine of usage data Google is sitting on. In this case, Barksdale didn’t have to go far to ge the information. As a site reliability engineer, who handled technical problems across the site, it was part of his job to have constant access to mailboxes and other user accounts.

It’s a little like wondering if that helpful Amazon customer service agent you gave your credit card number is going to go on a shopping spree. It’s a matter of trust, and when malfeasants like Barksdale violates that trust, it makes it harder for users to use various online services again.

Could Google have prevented this from happening? The company said it constantly upgrades its security controls, and will take greater care auditing its logs to make sure the policy is being adhered to. Beyond that, there’s not much it can do, unless it decides to regularly psychologically evaluate all job applicants and employees. But last we checked, this isn’t the FBI.

Computing

The number pad on HP’s Chromebook 15 makes spreadsheet work a breeze

HP's Chromebook 15 comes with a 15.6-inch display, a metal keyboard deck with full-size keys, and a dedicated number pad, making it the second Chromebook model, following Acer's Chromebook 715, to be suited for spreadsheet work.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our favorites, with all the features you want.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Smart Home

From the kitchen to the bedroom, here are the best Alexa tips and tricks

Amazon's voice assistant Alexa has plenty of neat skills. So many, in fact, it seems like new ones appear every day. We've rounded up the top Echo tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your virtual assistant.
Computing

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.
Computing

AMD’s 2020 Ryzen CPUs could have a big boost in power efficiency

The sequel to AMD's Zen 2-based Ryzen 3000 CPUs is slated for a 2020 release and when it arrives, could leverage the new Zen 3 architecture to deliver impressive gains to performance and power efficiency.
Computing

Here's how you can download the best free music players for your Mac

Tired of your Mac's default music player? Take a look at our picks for the best free music players available for your Apple rig. Whether you're a casual listener or an audiophile, you're sure to find something that fits your needs here.
Computing

Want to make calls across the internet for less? Try these great VOIP services

Voice over IP services are getting more and more popular, but there are still a few that stand above the pack. In this guide, we'll give you a few options for the best VOIP services for home and business users.
Gaming

Transform into the ultimate leader with our tips and tricks for Civilization 6

Civilization VI offers both series veterans and total newcomers a lot to chew on from the get-go. Here are some essential starting tips to help you master the game's many intricacies.
Computing

The iPhone’s Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts could land on Macs this year

For its desktop computers, it appears that Apple may continue to draw from the iPhone for inspiration. iOS 12 features, like Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts, are believed to be making their way to MacOS this year at WWDC in June.
Computing

Dell slashes prices of XPS 13 and Alienware 17 laptops in latest promo

Dell's latest promotion will score you big savings on the XPS 13 or the Alienware 17. The stylish XPS 13's discount is for $430, and only the rose gold model is on sale, while gamers who choose the Alienware 17 will save $860.
Computing

Lenovo’s Yoga C930 sale drops a $650 discount on its 2TB SSD laptop

Lenovo is offering one of its 2-in-1 laptops at a $650 discount. This Lenovo Yoga C930 laptop comes with a 2TB solid-state drive, a digital pen, a fingerprint reader, and a Dolby Atmos sound bar.
Computing

You won't want to miss these deals on some of the best laptops around

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we have you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.