In brief: Google likes to pride itself as one of the more inclusive tech companies, but there are plenty who disagree. The firm has just settled a racial discrimination claim with a British contractor who says it failed to protect him from abuse during his work for Google Maps.
According to the Guardian, Ahmed Rashid (not his real name), a UK citizen of Moroccan descent, was contracted to “surreptitiously gather information about the strength and range of wifi signals inside individual stores in the targeted shopping centers” in the UK. The data could then be used to improve the accuracy of Google Maps.
Rashid said that the secretive nature of his work meant he was harassed, racially profiled, and accused of acting like a terrorist in the malls. He claims Google didn’t inform some locations about the visits and told contractors not to identify themselves to store employees, despite carrying backpacks and laptops. Rashid said that as the only “visibly Arab” member of the team, he faced extra harassment from security staff but wasn’t allowed to reveal that he worked for Google.
One of Rashid's white colleagues says Google should have done more to shield him. “It would have been helpful to all of us to have ID because we all got stopped, but a lot of us didn’t have problems because we were white. Google could have done more to help him.”
Rashid reported the incidents to Google and asked that he be allowed to wear an ID badge, but the company ignored these requests. After later complaining about being followed by security at a mall, a new contract he was promised was withdrawn later that same day.
Google settled Rashid’s claim for £4000 (about $5120). Part of the settlement forbids him from talking about what happened, but he spoke out after seeing Google staff stage a global walkout to protest sexual harassment and discrimination at the company.
In a statement to the Guardian, Google said, “All employees and contractors are provided with clear guidelines that outline the details of their project and role, and they’re instructed to be forthright about the fact that they’re working on behalf of Google.” It added that it did not require permission to check wifi signals as this was publicly available information.
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