Xbox Staff Say They Were Fired After Posting About Their Jobs On Kotaku

If you do customer support for Microsoft, don't post about it on this website. You'll probably lose your job. Over the past week, I've been in touch with two former Xbox support staff. Both people, who asked that we not use their names, say they were fired for writing comments about their jobs on Kotaku. One was let go last week, the other around a month ago.

In other words, be careful what you write on the internet.

By now, the stories are familiar: teens getting suspended for writing dumb things on Twitter; employees scolded for Facebook albums filled with bongs and whiskey. But how often does someone get let go for posting a comment on an internet news article?

Last Friday, a person, who we'll call Bob, was told to call his manager at Alpine Access, the work-from-home company that employed him. (Alpine handles tech support for the Xbox 360.) His manager asked if he had ever heard of a website called Kotaku. Yes, Bob said — he had.

"[The manager] then continued on about how someone that was higher up at Microsoft found the comment I left on the news article," Bob said in an email to me. "I was then reminded that we aren't allowed to speak about the company, or anything related to it on social media sites or any related sorts... I ended up apologising for leaving the comment."

I reached out to Alpine Access for comment and was directed to a spokeswoman for Sykes, the company that owns Alpine.

"We do have confidentiality agreements with our clients," the spokeswoman said, noting that she couldn't comment on the specifics of this situation. "And so we do expect our employees to abide by those confidentiality agreements."

Bob's manager said he would be suspended from work until Monday as they investigated the issue. On Monday, Bob got another call. He was fired.

Here's the comment Bob made on Kotaku, in response to an article about Xbox support pranksters. (His comment has since been deleted.)

"I believe this entire thing was taken a little too far," Bob told me. "I understand that it can make Microsoft look bad with an employee talking bad about their customers. But what I was saying wasn't as bad as they are making it seem."

The second former Xbox support staff, who we'll call Frank, has a similar, but completely separate story. Frank also worked for Alpine Access. A couple of months ago, he was asked to get on a conference call with three Alpine executives, who accused him of stealing from Microsoft by generating codes that give out free time on Xbox Live's premium Gold Membership.

But Frank says he didn't steal a thing.

"They told me they were going to find proof and press charges against me," Frank said in an e-mail to me. So he asked: if they found no proof, would he get his job back?

"Another person who was on the phone spoke up and said that's not the reason I was being fired," Frank said. "And that regardless of whether I'm innocent or not, they will never rehire me again because of the comments I made on Kotaku. They claimed the reason they're firing me is because I broke the non-disclosure agreement I signed when they hired me. This agreement stated that I'm not allowed to tell anyone I work for Microsoft or Xbox."

Here's the comment Frank was fired for:

"In all honesty, if I was an employer and my employee wrote something like that about a product I was trying to sell, I could see myself firing them too," Frank said. "I'm upset about losing my job, but I understand where they're coming from."

While I've blacked out both Bob and Frank's usernames here (at their request), neither ex-Alpine employee used a Kotaku handle that was connected to their real names. We don't know how Microsoft connected their Kotaku comments with their identities. Yet another compelling reason to be very, very paranoid about what you do and say online.


Comments

    I assume they posted while they were at work, and their IP addresses and/or keystrokes were logged.

      Or their username was also used elsewhere and a Google search (or Hotmail/Xbox live account search) turned up their names - a pseudonym does not equal anonymity.

      Well they work from home.. According to the article so, that doesn't really work. Unless they were spying on his computer which seems wrong & a total invasion of privacy.

        If they're working customer service, they're probably using company computers and headsets then. Those machines probably do monitor clicks and keystrokes to ensure that he is working when he says he is. :P

    What idiots. If you rage about your job on facebook you can be fired. All contracts were updated to add social media websites as a 'no go' for defaming the company. If you're doing this, regardless of your job, you're gonna get in trouble.

      something i found out the hard way. the company i used to work for updated the contract with that social media crap while i was on holiday (all my emails were redirected so i didnt get it). came back, first day complained about something vaguely to myself on facebook. got a massive warning. fun times

    A condition of employment is to not talk about their employment or the customers they interact with - especially in a negative/degrading manner.

    Both did that.

    It's a fair fire.

    Why on Earth wouldn't they post Anonymously or with a complete throwaway pseudonym?

    As tech-related employees, posting from a guest/fake/temp account should have been first instinct for something like that. VPN probably isn't a bad idea, either, lol.

    Nevertheless it's unfortunate for them and a bit of a wake-up call for others. When I worked for , they were pretty clear about the whole "we're watching" policy from the get-go, which was great, but I think more people need to be made aware of the extent of what their employers can trace, because the amount of people I see ranting on Facebook and the like shows that some people haven't made this connection yet.

    Maybe other companies should explain this (not just in passing or in a contract) as the aim is to keep bad press at bay - not to catch people out.

    Last edited 10/01/13 9:01 am

    If they're stupid it means your job is easier you idiots. Why are you complaining?

    Serves them right.

      I've worked in IT support in the past, stupid people most certainly do not make your job easier.

        agree, trying to get a stupid person to do something over the phone is like trying to herd a group of cats into a bath with a handful of noodles.
        There is the stupid person who thinks they know more than you, often accompanied by lines like "I worked in IT support before, I know what I am doing" or having apparently diagnosed the problem already and therefore will flat out ignore your prelim advice and lie about having completed certain steps.
        There is the "clueless git" who you have to walk through each and every step in excruciating detail, this one I don't mind so much providing they actually follow the steps and not go off on tangents of their own.
        The "Irate asshole" who had buggered something up on their end and needs it fixed but is quite content to raise his voice and bitch and moan to me about how it is my fault

        I suppose you could argue that stupid people make easy to fix mistakes and whatnot and while in essence this is true, it is rarely the "problem" that is an issue to fix, but almost exclusively the "person" on the other end of the phone that make it a chore.

          "...is like trying to herd a group of cats into a bath with a handful of noodles."

          HAHAHAHAHA best analogy EVER! The noodles sealed the deal.

    Take NDAs seriously. Especially if your livelihood is at stake.
    I applied for a job with a big tech company and had to sign an NDA.
    I didn't get the job, but to this day I still haven't told anyone about it.

      We were just about to reconsider your application, but then you had to open your big mouth.

      Pre-fired.

    I suspect the comments were an excuse, not a cause - these guy sounded "disgruntled", and it's hard to believe Kotaku comments were the only place it could be seen.

    I got let go about 5 years ago for allegedly saying something derogatory about my employer on Twitter. I say "allegedly", because when I asked them to point out a specific tweet or tweets, they couldn't. It was just an excuse they used, because I'd injured my back and had taken 2 weeks off sick, and they wanted a replacement.

    That being said, the tracking down their pseudonyms is concerning.

    The Internet is the devil. Its true. I have had people hunt me down on services i KNOW are not connected with anything I use in my day to day life. And i can not for the life of me figure out how. We are not talking tech savy people either. We are talking people who just have a lot of persistence.

    Yeah funny thing how breaching contracts loses you your job hey....

    The first rule of XBOX support is: You do not talk about XBOX Support. The second rule of XBOX Support is: You do not talk about it on Kotaku.

    Well, lesson #1 - if you're going to make comments like that, choose a username which is completely different from anything you've ever used anywhere else. Wondering if maybe they were using their Gamertags or something like that...

    I don't know if I'm going to get in trouble at some point in the future or not for this, but I find the idea that Microsoft have an e-secret police tracking down people by their handles whenever they say something that could reflect poorly on the company on the internet, to be very amusing; except for those found out of work. If the m.s.p are reading this right now, I'd really like to have chrome on my winrt tablet thanks, some one pass that message along. It's not a matter of it being 'superior' to ie10, it's just a matter of chrome having all these awesome plugins in it, that aren't spamware toolbars, that enhance my browsing experience considerably. That's actually the only gripe I have with it so far, and yeah I own an iPad, but I haven't touched that thing since I got the surface. Doing well fellas, now get me my chrome back.

    Last edited 10/01/13 12:14 pm

    Should have let the first one go with a warning but the 2nd one deserved to be fired.
    Rule 1: Do not talk about your company outside the premise. Basic terms and conditions. WHAT AN IDIOT.
    P.S I'm not a fanboy i own a PS3

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    http://www.flyforums.co.uk/general-fly-fishing-discussion/278045-fly-fishing-200-lb-fish.html#post1464659

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