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Google workers oppose cloud contract with Israeli government

Google workers and Palestinian rights activists ask company to divest from involvement in cloud and artificial intelligence contract with Israeli government and military, following allegations the tech giant has retaliated against a worker to be publicly critical of the offer

Sebastian Klovig Skelton

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Published: 01 Sep 2022 10: 30

Several Google workers and Palestinian rights activists are contacting the tech giant to get rid of its involvement in the secretive Project Nimbus cloud computing contract, that involves the provision of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools to the Israeli government.

Demands Google to get rid of its involvement in the contract follow claims created by Ariel Koren, something marketing manager at Google for Education since 2015 and person in the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), that she was pressured into resigning as retaliation on her behalf vocal opposition to the offer. She’s since accused the tech giant of complicity in Israeli apartheid.

Announced by the Israeli Finance Ministry in April 2021, the $1.2bn Nimbus contract is supposed to provide the federal government, the defense establishment among others having an all-encompassing cloud solution, and has been jointly built by Google and Amazon.

Although it continues to be unclear just how the Israeli government use Nimbus, training documents and videos obtained by The Intercept in July 2022 indicate it could give it capabilities for facial detection, automated image categorisation, object tracking, and also sentiment analysis that claims to measure the emotional content of pictures, speech and writing.

In 2021, BTselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International all formally accused the Israeli government of committing crimes against humanity by maintaining an apartheid system against Palestinians.

The Google employees and rights activists have said they fear the way the technology will undoubtedly be used against Palestinians, and highlighted that Googles own AI principles state the business won’t design or deploy AI technologies which are more likely to cause harm, violate international norms against surveillance, or violate international law or human rights.

In accordance with Koren, who’s Jewish, after publicly speaking out against Googles involvement in Nimbus, she was told by her bosses in November 2021 that her role have been moved to Sao Paulo in Brazil, and that she could either invest in the relocation or lose her job.

I was told the forced relocation was predicated on business priorities, nevertheless the Sao Paulo office was still working at home and there is no demonstrable dependence on me to be physically situated in Sao Paulo, significantly less in the center of a pandemic, she wrote within an open letter published 30 August 2022, adding that while Googles recruiting team did eventually acknowledge to her that the relocation was improper and harmful, it continues to claim there is absolutely no proof retaliation.

In reaction to Computer Weeklys questions, a Google spokesperson claimed the companys policies clearly prohibit retaliation at work: We thoroughly investigated this employees claim, once we do when any concerns are raised, so when weve stated for most months, our investigation found there is no retaliation here. A government agency also dismissed this case once the employee filed a claim alleging she experienced retaliation.

The spokesperson added: We have been proud that Google Cloud has been selected by the Israeli government to supply public cloud services to greatly help digitally transform the united states. The project includes making Google Cloud Platform open to government agencies for everyday workloads such as for example finance, healthcare, transportation and education, nonetheless it isn’t directed to highly sensitive or classified workloads.

Koren, however, maintained: Rather than hearing employees who would like Google to call home around its ethical principles, Google is aggressively pursuing military contracts and stripping away the voices of its employees by way of a pattern of silencing and retaliation towards me and many more.

Portion of the issue, says Koren, is that Googles management is weaponising its diversity and inclusion systems by only hearing and considering the views of a specific group of Jewish workers that support what of the Israeli government.

Koren claimed while this band of Jewish workers self-described as Jewglers was ostensibly create to aid all Jewish people at Google, used it functions being an outlet to operate a vehicle forward right-wing ideologies beneath the guise of promoting diversity.

She further claimed members of the group were involved with censoring and harassing other employees with different, more critical views on what of the Israeli government, including sending aggressive messages to your Arab and Muslim colleagues.

At one point, Koren and 626 other Google workers wrote to the companys executives about Jewglers inherent bias, but received no response. Instead, Koren said Googles management made a decision to meet the Jewglers steering committee.

Regardless of widespread dissent from progressive Jews, the business was platforming Jewglers because the sole authority on Jewish identity at Google, said Koren.

Computer Weekly contacted Google about its alleged tendency to side with pro-Israeli government Jewish voices over other, more critical perspectives along with the alleged conducted of the Jewglers group but received no response with this point.

In reaction to Korens resignation, the AWU can be contacting Google executives to divest from Project Nimbus also to stop suppressing the freedom of speech and organising efforts of workers raising ethical concerns.

It’s the right of most Alphabet workers to voice our concerns and objections to projects like Nimbus and organise against them internally, free from concern with retaliation, said Parul Koul, executive chair of the AWU. A large number of Google workers have previously organised against military contracts, like Project Maven, and we deserve to accomplish exactly the same now and in the foreseeable future. Ariel shouldn’t have faced this retaliation and harassment. She shouldn’t have already been forced right into a position where resigning was her only choice.

A lot more than 700 Google employees and 25,000 others have finally signed a petition contacting the business to rescind Korens relocation order.

This is simply not the very first time employees have voiced their opposition to Googles role in Nimbus. In October 2021, for instance, workers from both Google and Amazon signed a letter condemning their involvement in Project Nimbus, that they claimed permits further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israels illegal settlements on Palestinian land.The letter was signed by a lot more than 90 Google and 300 Amazon workers, all signed anonymously, because we fear retaliation.

IN-MAY 2021, however, THE DAYS of Israel reported that the Israeli governments contracts with Google and Amazon bar the firms from denying services to particular government entities. The Finance Ministry said this might ensure continuity of service, even though the firms come under great pressure in other jurisdictions to boycott the Israeli government.

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