Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Former Disney employee accuses the company of hacking his phone just to harass him more effectively
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

A lot of companies creepily keep tabs on their employees even outside of work hours, but a new lawsuit against Disney Streaming Services—the company handling the “operational functions” of… Disney streaming services—accuses the company of taking “keeping tabs” to a terrifyingly bizarre level. This comes with Variety, which says a former Disney employee named Steven van Soeren claims the company hacked into his personal phone and home computer in order to “learn private information about him” and then used that personal information to treat him like shit while at work.

Van Soeren says that Disney fired him “without cause and did not provide severance pay” after he complained to HR about being harassed at work, with some of the harassment involving—in the words of the lawsuit—matters that Plaintiff had only discussed at home with his spouse, and/or viewed through his Google Chrome internet browser” at home. His conclusion, then, was that Disney had somehow accessed his phone and internet browser for one reason or another, and the people who had access to that private information used it to undermine his career.


This is where it gets especially weird. Rather than using his private information to, say, blackmail him or whatever, van Soeren says that whoever had this information just used it to insult him. Apparently, unprompted and in an unrelated conversation, DSS senior director of UX and design Brian McConnell “blurted out” to van Soeren “maybe you shouldn’t have a kid”—even though van Soeren hadn’t told anyone at work that he and his spouse were expecting a child. Also, after using his phone to read a study about possible carcinogens in the food at Subway, another employee told him, “if you’re worried about carcinogens then you shouldn’t eat at Subway”—also unprompted by a relevant conversation beforehand.

There were also less specific insults “throughout his spouse’s pregnancy and the birth of his child,” including coworkers calling him the “tallest midget,” saying that “everything he said was stupid,” and, simply, “fuck you, Steve.” Basically, he’s saying that they used this alleged hack just so they could berate him with insults that stopped just short of directly telling him that they hacked his phone, but at least according to this Variety story, it doesn’t sound like there’s proof that the hack was real. Either way, van Soeren says that when he went to HR, the company not only didn’t do anything in response but that Brian McConnell threatened to fire him for it. He’s now seeking “unspecific monetary damages,” including “damages for emotional distress.”

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