Anti-Diversity Memo Author Sues Google for Alleged …

Fired Google Memo Writer Took Part in Controversial, Sexist Skit While at Harvard for Which Administration Issued Formal Apology 


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Image: Getty / Gizmodo

Google fired software engineer James Damore on Monday after his 10-page anti-diversity screed went viral within the company. According to emails obtained by Gizmodo, and accounts from four individuals who attended a Ph.D program retreat with Damore, this is not the first time he offended his peers with sexist ideologies.

According to emails provided to Gizmodo, Andrew Murray and Tim Mitchison, the co-directors of the Systems Biology Program at Harvard—which Damore attended for two years before leaving the program and starting his career at Google—issued a formal apology to a number of students for a student skit performed at the 2012 Systems Biology Program Retreat. According to two sources, Damore was the primary performer in the skit.

In an email dated October 15, 2012, nine days after the conclusion of the retreat, Murray and Mitchison wrote that the skit “presented material that offended many members of our community” and emphasized that even in the context of a humorous skit, “targeting any group within the program that can be defined by gender, by ethnicity, by sexual orientation, or by religious orientation, is never acceptable.”

The stated purpose of the retreat is “to bring our community together to learn about current research in systems biology,” according to a description on the Systems Biology Ph.D program website. A photo reviewed by Gizmodo confirmed that Damore was present on the 2012 retreat, along with over 35 other adults.

A source who spoke under the condition of anonymity because they did not want their name associated with the current controversy surrounding Damore said that Damore participated in the writing, arranging, casting, and performing of the skit, which they described as “sexist” in nature. According to the source, a short humorous skit is typically performed by students during the annual retreat, and while they described the skits as typically a “roast,” they emphasized that “the goal is not to offend.” Damore participated in the writing of the skit, along with other program students, but according to two sources, Damore was the primary performer during the skit when it was performed. The source noted that in the “particular year in which James played a role organizing, [the skit] was particularly offensive to women.”

Three sources allege that Damore told what they characterized as a masturbation-related joke during the course of the performance, which fell flat and offended some in the audience. However, two sources attributed the backlash to the performance not to any malice on the part of Damore, but instead to his awkward delivery.

Multiple sources also allege that the skit was viewed as problematic among many individuals in the department and that a number of people were offended by the specific masturbation joke. The administration later issued the formal apology to the group for the skit overall.

An email with the subject line “Final Skit Brainstorming,” dated October 4, 2012, shows Damore emailed others in the program to finalize the skit and decide casting.

Over a year later, in a final email, dated November 21, 2013 with the subject line “I’m Leaving Harvard,” announced Damore’s departure from Harvard. In it, he said he “had too much fun [over the] summer,” referring to a Google internship he completed, and announced he would be taking a job at Google in December of that year.

When contacted for comment on Damore’s tenure at Harvard and any backlash related to the skit in question, a spokesperson from Harvard’s communications office responded, “As a policy, we do not comment on individual students.”

Andrew Murray, Tim Mitchison, and James Damore did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Do you have a tip about what’s going on at Google? Email the author of this story: [email protected]


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Google Not Sure Which Google+ Users Had Personal Data Exposed

Dell Cameron

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivers the keynote address at the Google I/O 2018 Conference at Shoreline Amphitheater on May 8, 2018 in Mountain View, California.
Photo: Getty

Following a report Monday alleging that Google kept secret a data breach potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of Google+ users, the company is offering only a meager defense of why it kept silent for so long.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google opted not to publicly disclose the exposure—both out of concern of how Congress might react and because of what harm it might’ve caused to Google’s own reputation. The Journal’s article, which cited multiple sources briefed about the incident as well as a leaked c-suite memo prepared by Google’s lawyers, preceded an announcement that Google+ would be shuttered for good 10 months from now.


Google itself disclosed Monday that a “bug” had left users of the failed social network exposed. But the company was apparently unable to say whether or not the leaked data had been misused at any point—only that it found “no evidence” misuse occurred. It’s also unclear whether Google’s decision to announce the Google+ shutdown was prompted by the Journal article. The company declined to respond to questions beyond providing Gizmodo a brief statement.

Up to 438 different applications may have had access to the personal data, which included users’ full names, email addresses, birth dates, gender, profile pics, where they lived, and occupations, among various other details . The bug is said to have been active since 2015. It remains unclear precisely how many users, if any, were affected.

Google said in an email that its privacy staff ultimately failed to meet “thresholds” necessary for public disclosure. For example, it was unable to “accurately identify” which users should be notified. (Google did not respond when asked to clarify why this was the case.) Google was also unable to ascertain whether the data had been misused at any point.


Furthermore, the company said, it wasn’t clear what actions, if any, might be taken by developers mistakenly given access to the data.

“Our Privacy & Data Protection Office reviewed this issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response,” the company said, adding: “None of these thresholds were met in this instance.”

Google added that it goes beyond legal requirements when it believes user data may be affected by a security incident.


The memo reviewed by the Journal reportedly focused on the ramifications Google would like face if the incident were to go public at a time when Facebook was being scrutinized by a hostile Congress over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It further noted that Google CEO Sundar Pichai would likely be forced to testify on Capitol Hill if knowledge of the exposure was public.

Citing someone familiar with Google’s thinking, the Journal reported that the legal memo “wasn’t a factor in the decision” not to go public, but instead “reflected internal disagreements over how to handle the matter.”

Sundar was  criticized in September for declining an invitation to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The CEO has agreed to appear before a House committee later this year to answer questions on a broad range of matters, including the unfounded allegations that Google “censors” conservative voices.


During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing late last month, Google’s chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, acknowledged that the company had “made mistakes in the past, from which we have learned, and improved our robust privacy program.” The committee’s chair, Sen. John Thune, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A House Energy & Commerce Committee spokesperson told Gizmodo, “The committee takes protection of consumer information seriously and we are currently reviewing the situation.”

We’ll update if Google responds to our inquiries.


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Dell Cameron
Dell Cameron

Reporter at Gizmodo.

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