Google, Apple, Yahoo Win Federal Permission to Hide Race and Gender Workforce Data as “Trade Secrets”

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Google, Apple and Yahoo (as well as Oracle and Applied Materials) this week prevailed against a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request that was seeking to require them to share their workforce data as it relates to race and gender. Under the Freedom of Information Act request, the San Jose Mercury News newspaper wanted to know what percentage of Apple’s, Google’s, and Yahoo’s workforce was African American, what percentage was Hispanic, Asian, caucasion, etc., and what percentage were women. Apple, Google and Yahoo, and Oracle and Applied Materials, claimed that these details were trade secrets, and that their businesses would be negatively impacted if they were forced to reveal this information.

It should be noted at this point that many other similarly-situated companies, including eBay and Intel, have freely allowed this information to be shared. In fact, a spokesperson for Intel said, succinctly, “There’s nothing to hide, in our view.” Intel was happy to provide the information to the Mercury News, saying that “We just felt that we’re very proud of the programs we have in place and the efforts we put forth, and we don’t have any trouble sharing it.”


So why are Google, Apple and Yahoo hiding this information? And why does it rise to the level of “trade secrets”?

And, why did the Federal Labor Department buy it? According to the Labor Department’s decision, “Such data can demonstrate a company’s evolving business strategy… The companies have articulated to us that they are in a highly competitive environment in which less mature corporations can use this EEO-1 data to assist in structuring their business operations to better compete against more established competitors.”

There are lots of lines there between which one can read. In a global marketplace, for example, and an Internet that knows no boundaries, it’s quite likely that some (perhaps even much) of Google’s, Apple’s and Yahoo’s work is farmed out to off-shore contractors or employees. It’s unlikely, for example, that Google would want the world – and especially people in the U.S. – to know that a substantial percentage of their workforce is in India (if it is – this is a complete hypothetical).

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Or maybe it’s that they really are doing an abyssmal job of recruiting, hiring, and retaining minority workers. Certainly Google, Yahoo and Apple are all situated in an area that has a very high number of Hispanics and Hispanic-Americans, however the Mercury News determined that even though the big tech companies have grown by as much as 16%, the numbers of minority employees have dropped appreciably.

Says the Mercury News in a recent report, “Hispanics and blacks made up a smaller share of the valley’s computer workers in 2008 than they did in 2000, a Mercury News review of federal data shows, even as their share grew across the nation. …The trend is striking in a region where Hispanics are nearly one-quarter of the working-age population – five times their percentage of the computer work force – and when dual-career couples and female MBAs are increasingly the norm.”

Of course, given the Labor Department decision, we may never know what, exactly, these companies have to hide.

 

“As we’ve previously said, we don’t release this information for competitive reasons,” a Google spokeswoman said.

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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One thought on “Google, Apple, Yahoo Win Federal Permission to Hide Race and Gender Workforce Data as “Trade Secrets”

  1. Nobody’s business besides the companies’. I find it laughable that with all of the panic around employees’ rights, the rights of employers to hire and retain the people they feel most comfortable working with has been completely ignored. You want to fire me for being Jewish? Your decision, your loss. Need to bring America back to its glory days and do away with this equal outcomes bullshit.

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