Google are Evil – Look at how the BookScan employees are treated

Mike Cane tipped me to an interesting story about how Google BookScan contractors are treated differently from Google employees and from the rest of the contractors.

The GBS contractors are the only ones who wear yellow badges, and they “are not allowed any of the privileges that I was allowed – ride the Google bikes, take the Google luxury limo shuttles home, eat free gourmet Google meals, attend [email protected] talks and receive free, signed copies of the author’s books, or set foot anywhere else on campus except for the building they work in. They also are not given backpacks, mobile devices, thumb drives, or any chance for social interaction with any other Google employees.” One person who worked for Google’s video production contractor got interested in the GBS people, and in the process of asking a few questions he managed to get himself fired. You should  read the link and get his full story.

Mike Cane took the position that this is evidence Google are evil. I’m not so sure. Several parts of this story can be attributed to indifference and ineptitude. It doesn’t rise to the level of being evil.

I was all in favor of leading the charge against Google. Unfortunately for me, I asked for advice from someone who had negotiated contracts like this. She wasn’t surprised.

The GBS contractors have fewer privileges. So what? It’s not unusual for different groups to be employed under different contracts with different privileges. It sucks to be GBS contractors, but you need to blame their boss, not Google. Whoever negotiated the contract on behalf of the contractor is the one who screwed up here, not Google.

It sucks to be the contract employees, but that’s not Google’s fault.

I can also give you an alternate explanation for why he was fired. First, there’s always the chance that  someone got pissed off and decided to make an example, but there’s a better option: the Google Books lawsuit. This lawsuit has generated a lot publicity and other unwanted attention. How much do you want to bet that the GBS contractors have been hassled before by journalists and/or PIs hired by lawyers? I think it’s almost certain that that has happened. Google might have forced the firing of this employee simply out of reflex. Now, that’s a bad reason to fire someone, but on a corporate scale it’s barely above stepping on a fly.

Heck, it might not even have been reflex. Someone a couple steps removed might really believe that the fired employee was also a journalist or in cahoots with lawyers.

BTW, the Google Books lawsuit might also explain the different colored badges.  GBS could be the most controversial part of Google’s operations, which means Google might want a quick way to identify who belongs in the group and who doesn’t.

Absent a memo from someone in Google corporate, this is a non-issue. It’s so ordinary that it’s not even worth fact checking.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Eli James2 May, 2011

    Have you seen this clarification?!5797022/googles-secret-class-system?comment=38813634:38813634

    It’s a lot simpler than what Andrew Norman Wilson attempts to portray it is: and I think it’s understandable, the way Google has implemented such a system.

    1. Nate Hoffelder2 May, 2011

      I had missed the article on Gizmodo completely. Thanks.

    2. Nate Hoffelder2 May, 2011

      But that comment doesn’t really explain Google’s response.

  2. Mike Cane2 May, 2011

    You leave out why I said it’s evil:

    >>>Hey, Google, in the real world, temps for lawyers, consultancies, and financial firms get more privileges than this!

    It seems only in the *tech* world is there such a blatant segregation between groups (Google is not alone in this). So much for all that hippie ethos that once drove tech.

    1. Mike Cane2 May, 2011

      I should also add that I have no problem with ScanOps having its own building. It probably needs it for the scanning equipment and processing of truckloads of books. I don’t even bring up the Copyright litigation issues because they’re non-existent when it comes to scanning public/university *public domain* books, which I’m sure is still going on.

  3. Jason Evans2 May, 2011

    I’ve worked for two large corporation as a contractor. One was in the tech field and the other in the financial field. This isn’t anything new. Contractors are routinely treated as second class citizens. My current job has almost 0% chance of going permanent even though I do the same work as my FTE co-workers. That’s the nature of the beast. It sucks, but it’s a job.

  4. cheshire7 May, 2011

    I work at a corp that has used contractors for over 10 years. When they first started, they were treated very similarly to employees. Then there was a lawsuit by some contractor(s) against Microsoft. If I’m remembering correctly because Microsoft treated the contractor like employees (this is a very simple explanation), Microsoft had to give the contractors benefits.
    It was after that ruling, that distinctions between contractors and employees began at my company. Some very similar to what goes on at Google. This isn’t Google being evil this is the way of the world after the Microsoft lawsuit.

  5. Five reasons why Google’s Linux Chromebook is NOT a Windows killer | OzTechNews.com16 May, 2011

    […] widely considered just as evil, if not more so, than their operating system competitors (see here, here, here, here, here, here and here for some recent examples – and that’s just what I […]


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