Google admits staff snooped Gmail

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Engineer crossed the line.

Google fired its second employee last month for breaching internal policy by snooping on Gmail users' accounts, the search and advertising giant confirmed today.

"We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google's strict internal privacy policies," Bill Coughran, senior vice president of Google's engineering team told TechCrunch.

US website Gawker.com published an unconfirmed report Tuesday stating that the 27 year-old "site reliability engineer" had repeatedly accessed the accounts of at least four underage Gmail users whom he had previously met.

In one instance Barksdale was claimed to have accessed the Google Voice logs of a 15-year-old boy who had refused to tell him the name of his girlfriend.

The engineer was claimed to have accessed contact lists, chat transcripts, and instant message logs that Google stored.

The spying efforts did not appear to be sexual in nature, the Gawker article said, citing comments from an un-named source.

According to Gawker, Google confirmed it was the second time one of its employees had been fired for snooping, stressing that the previous case did not involve minors.

Google's Coughran said the company carefully controlled the number of employees it allowed access to its systems, but added that it would always need to allow a "limited number of people" to access them.

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