The Tech Worker Handbook is a collection of resources for tech workers who are looking to make more informed decisions about whether to speak out on issues that are in the public interest. Aiming to improve working conditions, direct attention to consumer harms, or otherwise address wrongdoing and abuse should not be a solo or poorly resourced endeavor.
Deciding to go toe-to-toe with a powerful and well-resourced corporation is difficult for many reasons. Access to information about how to find legal counsel, file a complaint with a governmental organization, work with the media, secure personal information, or ensure physical safety should not be an additional barrier. This project addresses the need for centralized and accessible baseline resources for tech workers, because individuals should not have to rely on whisper networks for justice. Rebalancing power through the distribution of resources is not the sexiest work of tech accountability, but it’s sorely needed.
The Tech Worker Handbook is for ALL tech workers. Whether you provide labor at your tech company as a senior engineer, warehouse handler, content moderator, food prepper, sales manager, custodian, assistant, HR lead, or any other role, this Handbook should be both useful for and accessible to you. So-called “employee handbooks,” provided to workers at the beginning of employment, are ubiquitous within the tech industry. They are filled with the information an employer wants a worker to know, but are void of the content workers need to protect themselves.
The Tech Worker Handbook is not a how-to, set of instructions, checklist, or call to action to whistleblow. Whistleblowing — the act of speaking up in order to improve a situation for others — is an individual decision that should be made after a careful consideration of risks, options, and intended outcomes. My hope, though, is that those who do decide to take great risks in coming forward — for all of us — are better prepared and supported.
To that end, this Handbook is akin to a resource guide for building and using a slingshot, there when needed for battle with a Goliath.
—Ifeoma Ozoma, Founder of Earthseed, Creator of The Tech Worker Handbook
Employers of tech workers — tech giants and the myriad companies they turn to for contractors — not only have entire departments dedicated to legal, media, and security issues, but they also have the resources to hire virtually unlimited external assistance when dealing with threats.
A worker who considers sharing information that is in the public interest, against the wishes of their employer, is a threat. This Handbook was organized with those workers in mind.
The experts who contributed to these four guides have worked with tech workers across the world to provide necessary safety and assistance to workers who have become targets of their employers. Insights in the guides were derived from the experiences of the authors listed in each section and, as such, will not apply to everyone or to every situation. In fact, insights and information in the Tech Worker Handbook differ across the guides because no worker’s journey is the same, and so the tactics described by the experts are varied. This isn’t a bible, and it certainly isn’t your employer’s handbook — a long list of what you should or shouldn’t do.
This Handbook is intended to be a living document and, as such, it will likely grow and change from its current form. If you are a tech worker or at an organization that supports workers and would like to contribute to the Handbook, please reach out to [email protected].
Everything included in this Handbook can be reposted and repurposed freely with proper attribution (CC BY-SA 4.0). Use it, build on it, pass it along.
Seeking legal advice can be scary, but it’s a lot scarier to go up against a general counsel and a whole team of corporate lawyers without any legal help of your own.
In this guide, The Signals Network addresses the legal questions and issues that may be helpful to tech workers before, during, and after deciding to speak out. If early access to any of this information prevents even one worker from making an unnecessary error, the guide will have done its job.
Are you a source or just having a friendly conversation? What does it mean to speak with a reporter on background? How do you retain control of your story once you let another person tell it?
The experts at Lioness have helped workers across dozens of different industries tell their stories publicly, and their knowledge and experiences inform this guide. We all benefit from an environment in which tech workers are empowered to engage with members of the media on their terms — and with a full understanding of the role that responsible reporters play in providing transparency to the public.
Becoming the target of a company or organization that has perfected the art of surveillance is frightening.
How do you protect yourself when your only devices are company owned, your onboarding requires signing into your personal accounts, or all of your personal devices have company-managed software installed on them? Even after you take care of all those concerns, how do you think about protecting your identity after you become a “public figure” overnight or your former employer’s legal team sends private investigators to harass you and your family? In this guide, Matt Mitchell and the experts of Elite Strategy Global cover a range of information and physical security concerns that all tech workers should be aware of — whether or not they ever consider whistleblowing.
Even the longest profiles written by the most thoughtful reporters leave out huge pieces of an individual’s story.
So much of what goes into blowing the whistle is left on the cutting room floor when articles are written, interviews are recorded, and the story is summarized by someone else. Whistleblowing International Network works with tech workers to help them tell their stories in their own words. Our hope is that reading about a whistleblower’s journey from their own perspective encourages others to break the silence that is contributing to so much harm.
There’s no chance of accountability without transparency.
As I learned from my own experience blowing the whistle on racism, sexism, and wage discrimination, the journey to accountability is long and arduous. But it cannot even begin without the choices that brave individuals make to speak up about wrongdoing, often at great personal expense.
My focus after whistleblowing has been on effecting positive change for tech workers through practical means. Reforming labor laws and creating accessible resources is not glamorous work, but it is necessary. I encourage those who are similarly interested in “tech accountability” to focus seriously on practical needs. While we can all appreciate the attention being paid to tech industry wrongdoing in social media, the press, and even in policy hearings, until and unless that attention drives real change for workers, it’s just that: attention.
I am grateful for the many tech workers who have gotten us all a few steps closer to accountability within this industry by risking their safety, careers, access to healthcare, and more in speaking up. I am grateful for the many coworkers who have been true allies to those of us who have blown the whistle, by speaking up internally and providing tangible assistance in countless other ways — staying inside to fight another day. I am grateful for the individuals and organizations, like the contributors to this Handbook, who have spent years doing everything they can to help protect workers. I am grateful for the individuals at supporting foundations — people like Sarah Drinkwater and Aniyia Williams — who have championed this work and provided the time and respect to carry it out honestly and independently.
Thank you to everyone who continues to fight for workers.
Every organization and individual who contributed to this project substantively can be found below. One of the most valuable outcomes of this Handbook, in its current iteration and as it continues to grow, will be its ability to connect workers with folks who are committed to supporting workers. Read about each organization and individual on the Contributors page and please go to their sites to learn more about the amazing work they all do.
Please reach out to [email protected] if you would like to contribute to this Handbook in any way.