Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has long been known for offering extravagant perks to its workers, but the latest employee benefit is a little more practical: bus stop security guards.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) offers shuttle services to its employees in San Francisco, who (along with other techies) have been blamed for rising real estate prices in what have traditionally been working class areas. The bus stop has served as a flash point for protests, and in one incident a bus window was broken by one of the protestors. Recently, a pair of casually dressed men with ear pieces have been seen at the stops keeping an eye on things and occasionally taking notes, Reuters reports. When asked directly if they were security guards, the two men asked to see the reporter’s badge (possibly referring to the badge needed to board the Gbus) and declined to provide any information on their identity. Google also declined to comment on the situation.
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Google security probably there as police liaison
Considering the security guards are plain clothes and unarmed, they are probably there to monitor the situation and get in touch with police in case another incident starts to get out of hand. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is smart enough to realize that heavy-handed security measures would only aggravate the situation and could quickly turn into a PR nightmare.
There’s also the question of legality. Security guards have some authority on private property because they work for the property owner, at least indirectly. Private security guards in public spaces don’t have any such authority, and any action taken to subdue protestors could quickly turn into an assault charge.
Google adapting to heightened scrutiny
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has also started diversifying their private transport system, starting a ferry service that can be used as an alternative to the buses. While the company says it doesn’t want to inconvenience San Francisco residents, the main objection isn’t the existence of the private buses, but the company’s role in gentrification, which makes the addition of a fancy boat called The Triumphant somewhat tone deaf.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) also helped design a program in which tech companies pay the city of San Francisco for the right to use public bus stops, and the money will be used to upgrade bus stops and improve public transit. Google has argued that programs like this are meant to alleviate traffic and benefit the city.