The News Today
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11.23.20
Abusive Environment

Men at Facial Recognition Startup Used Its Own Tech to Sexually Harass Coworkers

__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Future Society
Verkada

Internal Harassment

Employees at the Silicon Valley security startup Verkada were reportedly using the company’s own facial recognition-equipped security cameras to take pictures of women who worked at the company and make sexually explicit comments about them.

A sales director at Verkada, which sells security cameras and facial recognition software to companies, government agencies, and police departments, took a picture of a female colleague with one of the cameras the company uses in its own office, then posted it to the company Slack channel alongside sexually explicit comments, Motherboard reports. Other employees followed suit and did the same to other women at the company — and all of them are still employed.

Toxic Culture

The incident — and the months it took to disclose it to the company, according to a full account of the events from IPVM — shows the clash of several toxic Silicon Valley trends. At Verkada, multiple employees told Motherboard about a pervasive misogynistic, fraternity-like workplace culture that’s now in spotlight for illustrating how emerging tech can be used to exploit and abuse others.

“I think it’s 100 percent fair to say I left Verkada because of the culture,” a former employee told Motherboard. “The worst part of it was that it seemed like the men in this crew continued to be celebrated and remained in leadership positions. That’s how [management] has made the toxic culture they’ve created okay.”

Not Enough

The four men responsible for the sexual harassment all kept their jobs but lost some of their stock options, Motherboard reports. To women at the company and those affected by the harassment, attempts to improve workplace culture fell short.

“Everyone wants to stay there for the potential money they could make, but especially for women it’s hard to stay there,” another former employee told Motherboard. “There’s no support. They don’t care about you.”

READ MORE: Surveillance Startup Used Own Cameras to Harass Coworkers [Motherboard]

More on work culture: The Tech Industry’s Gender Problem Isn’t Just Hurting Women