Google workers oppose cloud deal with Israeli government

Google workers oppose cloud deal with Israeli government

A group of Google employees and Palestinian rights activists are calling on the tech giant to end its involvement in the secretive Project Nimbus cloud computing contract, which involves supplying artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools to the Israeli government.

Google has been called on to end its involvement in the deal following claims since 2015 by Ariel Coren, a product marketing manager at Google for Education and a member of the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), that he was pressured to resign in retaliation for his vocal opposition. was done He has since accused the tech giant of “engaging in Israeli apartheid” in the deal.

Israel’s Ministry of Finance announced in April 2021The $1.2 billion Nimbus deal is “intended to provide governments, defense agencies and others with an all-encompassing cloud solution”, and is jointly built by Google and Amazon.

Although it is not yet clear how the Israeli government will use Nimbus, Received by training documents and videos The Intercept July 2022 indicates that it will enable facial recognition, automatic image categorization, object tracking and even sentiment analysis that claims to assess the emotional content of images, speech and writing.

In 2021, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch And Amnesty International All formally accused the Israeli government of committing crimes against humanity by maintaining apartheid measures against Palestinians.

Google employees and rights activists have said they fear how the technology could be used against Palestinians and have highlighted it Google’s own AI policy It states that the company will not design or deploy AI technology that could cause harm, violate international norms against surveillance, or violate international law or human rights.

According to Koren, who is Jewish, after publicly speaking out against Google’s involvement in Nimbus, he was told by his bosses in November 2021 that his role had moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and that he could either commit to the move or lose it. His job.

“I was told that the forced relocation was based on business priorities, but the Sao Paulo office was still working from home and there was no need for me to be physically located in Sao Paulo, much less in the middle of a pandemic,” he wrote in one open letter Published on 30 August 2022, adding that Google’s human resources team had finally admitted to him that the transfer was “improper and harmful”, it continued to claim that there was “no evidence of retaliation”.

In response to questions from Computer Weekly, a Google spokesperson made the company’s claim Policy Workplace retaliation is expressly prohibited: “We thoroughly investigated this employee’s claim, as we do when any concern is raised, and as we have said for many months, our investigation found no retaliation here. Also a government agency dismissed This is when the employee files a claim alleging that he experienced retaliation.”

The spokesperson added: “We are proud that Google Cloud has been selected by the Israeli government to provide public cloud services to support the country’s digital transformation. The project includes making the Google Cloud Platform available to government agencies for everyday workloads such as finance, healthcare, transportation and education, but is not intended for highly sensitive or classified workloads.”

Coren, however, maintained: “Instead of listening to employees who want to adhere to Google’s ethical principles, Google is aggressively pursuing military contracts and taking away the voices of its employees through a pattern of silencing and retaliating against me and many others.”

Part of the problem, Koren said, is that Google’s management is weaponizing its diversity and inclusion system by only listening to and considering the views of a certain set of Jewish employees that support the Israeli government’s actions.

Coren claimed that while this group of Jewish workers – self-described as “Jugglers” – was ostensibly founded to support “all the Jewish people at Google”, in reality it “serves as an outlet to advance right-wing ideology promoting diversity.”

He also claimed that members of the group were involved in censoring and harassing other employees with different, more critical views on Israeli government actions, including “sending offensive messages to our Arab and Muslim colleagues.”

At one point, Coren and 626 other Google employees Wrote a letter to company officials about the inherent bias of the Jews, but received no response. Instead, Coren said Google’s management decided to meet with the Jugglers steering committee.

“Despite widespread dissent from progressive Jews, the company is platforming jugglers as the sole authority on Jewish identity at Google,” Koren said.

Computer Weekly contacted Google about other, more critical views – as well as those allegedly run by the Jugglers group – about the pro-Israeli government’s alleged tendency to side with Jewish voices but did not receive a response.

In response to Koren’s resignation, the AWU called on Google executives to withdraw from Project Nimbus and stop suppressing free speech and organizing efforts by workers who raise ethical concerns.

AWU Executive Chair Parul Kaul said, “It is the right of workers of all stripes to raise our concerns and objections to projects like Nimbus and to organize against them internally without fear of reprisals. “Thousands of Google workers have organized against military contracts before, e.g Project Maven, and we deserve to do the same now and in the future. Ariel should never have faced this retaliation and harassment. He should never have been forced into a position where resignation was his only option.

More than 700 Google employees and 25,000 others now have Signed a petition Urged the company to withdraw Koren’s transfer order.

It’s not the first time activists have opposed Google’s role in Nimbus. In October 2021, for example, Employees of both Google and Amazon signed a letter Project condemns their involvement in Nimbus, which it claims “allows further surveillance and illegal data collection on Palestinians and facilitates the expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land”. The letter was signed by more than 90 Google and 300 Amazon employees, all anonymously, “because we fear retaliation”.

But in May 2021, The Times of Israel Israeli government contracts with Google and Amazon prevent the firms from denying services to certain government agencies, the report said. The finance ministry said it would ensure continuity of service, even if companies come under pressure in other jurisdictions to boycott the Israeli government.

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