The job posting description reads: Attention, those of you who are: (1) Interested in privacy, security, user data, and user protection, and (2) looking for a job (or could be interested in switching): the Night’s Watch is now hiring.
When you ask questions about “what is Google going to do about…” and the next sentence involves one of those really sensitive areas, this is the set of people tasked with answering it.
Amanda Conway, a Privacy Program Manager at Google says,
“During the Arab Spring, we saw activists that were jeopardizing their safety on social media to share things. No one was offering a solution to keep them safe, and so we moved quickly to try and make a change. By creating face blurring tools, and quickly pushing them out, we were trying to introduce something to respond to their new safety concerns on the ground.”
The NightWatch team is not only special at Google, it’s unique for Silicon Valley overall. Made up of engineers, lawyers, activists, and others who take a special interest in advocating for communities that might otherwise be overlooked, the NightWatch team doesn’t look like the average group of people you’d find on a tech campus.
As Google engineer and leader of the Nightwatch team looks around the room at a diverse group of six men and women from different countries she says,
“No, unfortunately, this is not what most of Silicon Valley looks like.”
There aren’t standard degrees in this sort of thing; people who work on this come from all sorts of backgrounds. The team has everything from people with advanced degrees in CS to people who were previously lawyers, domestic violence counselors, and journalists. It has people of a wide range of genders, races, and so on, and is always looking for more, because in a field like this, the more diverse your team, the more likely you are to catch that subtle problem which will affect one group horrifically.
Though not a reference to “Game of Thrones” Night watch was conceived about four years ago because they wanted to protect users and the dark places of the internet.
“We wanted to take into account the different life circumstances people are in. More than any other thing this requires an understanding of the different kinds of threats and fears people face,” said Kissner to buzzfeed. “We wanted to make products that work well for a variety of people and give people choices on how to handle their information.”