Google and Uber are both working on self driving cars, for different reasons. Google has had a strong lead in the game – until.
Google’s self driving car subsidiary called Waymo says it has spent millions of dollars perfecting the technology for self driving cars.
A former Google employee, Anthony Levandowski, started the self driving truck company called Otto. Uber, sensing it was behind in the self driving game, bought Levandowski’s company and put him in charge of their effort to create self driving vehicles.
Only one problem.
Google claims that Levandowski “acquired” 14,000 documents from Google prior to leaving and starting what amounts to a competitor.
I’m guessing that Google looked at the Otto technology and figured it looked a little bit too familiar to them.
While this may seem like a game between giants – and it certainly is at one level – it is also a lesson for companies at all levels.
Every company has intellectual property. Whether it is a customer list, software, business plans, or technical knowhow as is claimed by Google in its lawsuit against Uber, it is cheaper to steal it than to invent it.
While it is impossible to completely stop a person who is intent on stealing your IP, you can make it difficult.
We have one client who has disabled USB flash drives. Another client who has removed DVD writers from PCs. You can and likely should restrict access to data based on a need to know and you certainly should have legal agreements in place between the company and employees regarding ownership of information. You should also be logging, auditing and alerting.
Information theft is not limited to big companies like Uber and Google – it can affect even tiny companies.
And it even happens to security conscious organizations like the NSA (remember Booz, Allen NSA contractor Edward Snowden)? Last year Another Booz – NSA contractor, Harold Martin, was arrested – accused of stealing 50 terabytes of information and storing it at his house. It does not appear he was out to sell it to anyone, he just liked to horde data, although some of it may have been sold or hacked.
The real question is whether you have any information that might be valuable to a competitor.
And what you are doing to make it harder for them to get it.
Information for this post came from Wired.