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Google tightened security by banning contractors and temp workers from its internal Groups forums, and it’s raising new workplace problems

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Google tightened security by banning contractors and temp workers from its internal Groups forums, and it’s raising new workplace problems
  • Last April, Google’s contract, vendor, and temporary workers — known as TVCs — were barred from all internal chat forums running on the company’s Google Groups software, former TVCs told Business Insider.
  • The company cited security concerns as the reason for locking TVCs out of the Google Groups forums — a former TVC told us.
  • The decision had a “chilling effect” on the contractor community across Google, isolating them from their full-time counterparts and holding them back from being able to carry out “essential” work.
  • You can only do half of your job,” another former TVC said.
  • Equal access to information was one of the main demands from TVCs during walkouts in November.

Google’s efforts to boost security and clamp down on leaks is deepening a rift between full-time employees and the tens of thousands of contractors who toil alongside them every day, with some of the contractors complaining that they’ve been locked out of internal systems necessary for their jobs.

In April, Google’s contract, vendor, and temporary workers — referred to within the company as TVCs — were barred from all internal chat forums running on Google Groups, three former TVC workers told Business Insider.

The company cited security concerns as the reason for locking TVCs out of the Google Groups forums, one TVC who worked at YouTube at the time told us. The decision, he said, had a “chilling effect” on the contractor community across Google.

“They may have contained confidential information,” the former YouTube TVC said. “But there were also Groups such as food forums, Overwatch forums, Tesla forums — things that would generally bring the community together and things that would actually allow full-time employees and TVCs to collaborate and boost morale. So I think that actually in a way, whether it was intentional or not, [the ban] had a chilling effect on the TVCs.”

Feelings of social isolation aside, some of the contract workers said the exclusion from Google Groups makes it impossible for them to perform their core job responsibilities. At a company such as Google, where many employees begin as TVCs and hope to impress their managers enough to get hired full time, the rule changes have become a growing cause of distress and unease.

One former Google TVC told us that he was blocked from Google Groups that were “essential” to his work and felt fortunate that his manager advocated for him to obtain the access he needed. That same manager also helped the TVC gain permission to book meeting rooms.

Another former Google TVC said she had a different experience with her manager and “wasn’t able to get access to a lot of their systems.” As a result, she said, “you can only do half of your job.”

A Google spokesperson confirmed with Business Insider that TVCs were limited in their access to Google Groups in an effort to reduce security vulnerabilities. The spokesperson also said TVCs are provided access to the resources needed to succeed in their assignments at Google.

“We hire Google employees to work on jobs that are core to our business, and look to temps, vendors and contractors when we either don’t have the expertise or infrastructure ourselves, or when we need temporary help due to employee leaves or short-term projects,” a Google spokesperson told Business Insider. “Temps, vendors, and contractors are an important part of our extended workforce, but they are employed by other companies, not Google.”

‘We were second-class citizens’

Equal access to information was one of the main demands of TVCs during the November employee walkouts and the subsequent letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

In the letter, TVCs wrote, in part: “We need transparency, accountability, and structural change to ensure equity for all Google workers … We want access to town hall discussions; all communications about safety, discrimination, and sexual misconduct; and a reinstatement of our access to internal forums like Google Groups.”

Other demands included better pay, high-quality healthcare, and paid vacations.

Read more: Google denies claims that it didn’t alert contractors about the active shooter at YouTube — but at least one temp says it’s a ‘big fat lie’

Google’s practice of hiring temps and contractors in place of full-time employees has often been criticized as the company’s way to cushion its bottom line at the expense of its workers. TVCs generally don’t receive the many perks and benefits to which full-time workers are entitled, from paid vacations and sick days to bonuses.

The former TVCs we spoke with all confirmed feelings of discrimination at certain times while working for Google. From not being able to invite friends or family for lunch, to physically having to wear a red badge — which the company again maintains is for security reasons — there was an “overall feeling that we were second-class citizens,” one TVC told us.

Another said having to wear the red badge and being a TVC “almost feels like a sense of shame.”

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal at +1 (209) 730-3387, email at [email protected], or Twitter DM at @nickbastone.

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