Google Engineer Spied on Underage Teens' Chats, Emails

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

An engineer at Google has been fired after he was caught accessing several underage teenagers' chat logs and email messages without their knowledge. 27-year-old David Barksdale met the teens through a technology group in the Seattle area, and after he befriended them, he began cyber-spying on them.

According to an article on the media-news website Gawker, Barksdale spied on at least four teens. When one of these minors, a 15-year-old boy, didn't want to tell Barksdale the name of his new girlfriend, Barksdale hacked into the boy's Google Voice call logs, found the girl's name, then threatened to call the boy's girlfriend and embarrass the boy.

In another incident, a teen had blocked Barksdale from a GTalk buddy list. Barksdale went into the buddy list and unblocked himself, despite the teen's having taken steps to cut off contact with him.

Barksdale isn't being charged as a pedophile - he didn't make sexual advances toward any of the minors he spied on - but Google terminated his employment in July 2010. It's not clear why Barksdale violated these teens' privacy: friends report he loved to show off his hacking skills and was extremely proud of having such extensive security acess at Google.