In 2018, a former Activision Blizzard IT worker installed cameras in the company's Minnesota office bathroom with the intent to spy on employees while they used the toilet, according to court records reviewed by Waypoint and local media reports from the time.
The employee, Tony Ray Nixon, pleaded guilty to "Interference with Privacy," a gross misdemeanor, and was given a suspended prison sentence; he later allegedly violated his parole requiring him to take "sex offender treatment as directed." Nixon worked for Activision Blizzard in Eden Prairie Minnesota, where the company maintains a building that focuses on quality assurance.
According to court documents, police learned that Activision Blizzard had a problem when a male employee showed up in the lobby of the police department on August 23, 2018 at 10:47 p.m. The employee, who is anonymous in the court documents, “stated that he received an e-mail from Human Resources that an unauthorized monitoring device had been installed in the unisex bathrooms and that Activision was doing an internal investigation.” It is unclear from the documents whether this employee was formally acting on behalf of Activision the company or if they were independently reporting a crime at work, however, Activision said in a statement to Waypoint that it "notified the authorities."
When reached by phone, a public information officer for the Eden Prairie police department told Waypoint that the detective who worked on the case has retired.
A detective went to the Activision Blizzard offices the next day: “Management informed him that an employee had found two cameras in the unisex bathroom there, which were installed under the sinks,” court documents said. “Management then removed the cameras and sent them to their office in Santa Monica, CA for analysis.”
The Eden Prairie detective inspected the bathrooms and realized "the cameras had been mounted in a manner to point at the toilet." During Activision Blizzard’s investigation, it discovered that Nixon shopped for micro SD cards, waterproof camcorders, and battery packs that worked with the cameras found in the bathrooms.
When the detective confronted Nixon, he admitted that he’d been capturing footage in the bathroom for about three weeks. “Defendant also admitted that the cameras had captured footage of employees within the bathroom, but had deleted the videos,” court documents said.
“Once this incident was reported to us, the Company began an investigation, promptly removed all unauthorized cameras, and notified the authorities,” Activision Blizzard told Waypoint in an email. “The authorities conducted a thorough investigation, with the full cooperation of the Company. As soon as the authorities and Company identified the perpetrator, he was terminated for his abhorrent conduct. The Company provided crisis counselors to employees, onsite and virtually, and increased security.”
The 2018 incident is notable because Activision Blizzard is currently being sued by the state of California for allegedly violating the state's labor laws, and for allegedly serving as a “breeding ground for harassment.” On Wednesday, Activision Blizzard employees walked out at Blizzard's Irvine, California headquarters to protest both the company's culture as well as the company's response to the California lawsuit.