A surveillance startup boasting clients including Juul Labs, Red Lobster, and the city of Memphis has come under fire over claims that its own facial recognition system was used to harass female employees. Motherboard and the Verge are out with reports on the behavior at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Verkada, which is fitted with the company's own security cameras. According to Motherboard, a sales director accessed the cameras to take photos of female employees, which he shared with other employees on the chat service Slack in August 2019. The photos were accompanied by sexually explicit jokes, per IPVM, which first reported on the incident. One photo showing an employee with "her mouth wide open" was accompanied by a joke about squirting, per Motherboard, which notes Verkada was valued at $1.6 billion in January.
In February, CEO Filip Kaliszan announced the employee who posted the images and nine others who were involved in the chat could leave the company or have their stocks reduced. All chose to stay, but at least one employee who was not involved in the incident left. "I didn't feel comfortable," the person tells Motherboard, noting the men involved "continued to be celebrated and remained in leadership positions." At least two of the men are part of a group of senior sales staff who played high school football together, per Motherboard. Sources tell IPVM that the company appeared to favor this group and those "within the same circle." But Kaliszan defended his response on Friday, saying he "imposed the largest financial penalty in our company's history on the instigator and had individual disciplinary discussions with each of the other participants," per the Verge. (Read more Silicon Valley stories.)