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Google broke U.S. law by spying on workers who had organized protests and firing two of them in retaliation, the National Labor Relations Board alleges in a complaint filed Wednesday, according to the Worker Agency, an advocacy group representing labor campaigns.

Why it matters: The complaint is a major rebuff to practices at Google, a behemoth that's seen its share of worker discontent over its contracts and internal policies.

Background: Two Google workers, Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, were fired last year amid worker protests over some of Google's military contracts and treatment of employees.

  • The NLRB complaint alleges that Google unlawfully surveilled, suspended and interrogated workers for organizing.
  • The NLRB did not find that Berland or Spiers broke any company rules.
  • Google worked with IRI Consultants, a union-busting firm, as worker organizing was bubbling up last year.

The other side: “Google has always worked to support a culture of internal discussion, and we place immense trust in our employees," a Google spokesperson said. "Of course employees have protected labor rights that we strongly support, but we have always taken information security very seriously."

  • "We’re confident in our decision and legal position. Actions undertaken by the employees at issue were a serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trusted responsibility.” 

Go deeper

Jan 25, 2021 - Technology

Google says it may have found a privacy-friendly substitute to cookies

Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Google on Monday said new test results show promising signs that the technology it's hoping will replace cookie-based ad targeting is working.

Why it matters: Google and web browser rivals Apple and Mozilla have all introduced sweeping privacy changes recently that will collectively phase out cookies, an internet tracking tool that tracks users' web browsing history.

13 mins ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.

Airlines call for Biden admin's "immediate intervention" in 5G deployment

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The CEOs of leading U.S. air cargo and passenger carriers on Monday warned the Biden administration there could be "catastrophic disruption" after AT&T and Verizon deploy a new 5G service this week.

Driving the news: They said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top federal officials ahead of the C-Band 5G service's deployment Wednesday that "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt" and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas."