The employees at Google fear that Google’s technology is being or could be used against the Israeli Government.
Reality Behind Google Workers’ Protests Against the Israeli Government Cloud Deal. The employees at Google fear that Google’s technology is being or could be used against the Palestinians. Ariel Koren, Manager at Google, decided to resign due to the pressure that the company’s technology could be used in a way in which it was not intended.
Ariel Koren has become the face of the protest of Google workers protesting against the deal Google has made with the Israeli government. She presented her resignation shortly after the deal was finalized, stating that it made it impossible for her to continue working knowing that the company’s technology might be used against the Palestinians. Moreover, she further explained that she was receiving backlash for expressing pro-Palestinian from her colleagues and the management despite being Jewish herself.
Opposition to Project Nimbus
She joined other employees from Google and Amazon who were in opposition to Project Nimbus. This project is a multibillion contract, 1.2 billion to be precise, for Amazon and Google to provide cloud computing services to Israel, extending to the country’s defense system. After showing her concerns, Koren was presented an ultimatum by the company to relocate to Brazil within 17 days or she will be terminated from the job.
The leaked training documents about Project Nimbus revealed that Israel will receive Google’s cloud AI services, including facial detection, and sentiment and video analysis. Koren along with other protestors launched a campaign called No Tech for Apartheid. The movement is against Google’s contract to provide surveillance and AI services that could be used against the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Despite this campaign, Google has further expanded its reach in the defense business.
Protests against Project Nimbus
Koren teamed up with former and current employees of Google along with Palestinian rights activists to protest against Project Nimbus. The workers from Amazon and Google plan to protest at Google’s offices in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle in the next month. Google’s management has refused to make any comment on the allegations. However, Google’s spokesperson, Shannon Newberry released a statement stating that the company carried out an internal investigation and has found no basis for these claims. Koren’s case was also dismissed by the US National Labor Relations Board. Newberry further stated that Project Nimbus is not directed to classified or highly sensitive data. Koren spoke to media sources stating how things are
Google employees who previously went against the company’s business practices and projects of AI. Koren was a member of the company’s Jewish employee resource group, Jewglers. She received an email in the summer of 2020 from Google in which the company formally apologized for donating to the Black Lives Matter movement. Earlier the Jewglers complained against the company’s affiliation with the movement on account that it aligns with the Palestinian human rights movement.
Koren explained that there were individuals who were not very pleased to see the company apologize for donating to the cause that fighting racism and the uprising violence against black people in the US. Koren claims that she organized a letter from the Jewish employees for the company to retract the apology they issued. According to her the company instead made donations to the groups the Jewish employees, pro-Israeli, had chosen. Koren realized at this moment that she had to take a stand.
When asked about Project Nimbus, Koren replied that Google often does not provide complete transparency to its shareholders or the general public. The company even does not disclose full details to its employees about the contracts it entails. Koren disclosed that she found out about the details in the news by talking to other employees with more access to the project. Project Nimbus was announced in 2021 during the violence outbreak between Palestine and Israel. Such huge contracts will always be concerning that are committing to do surveillance, especially for military purposes. The time of the project’s announcement was also very disturbing.
Google cannot back out of the Contract
The details of the contract state that Google cannot back out of the contract even if the workers protest against the clauses. Also, Google will have no right to regulate which government agencies will be using Google’s technology and how it will be used. Such clauses redeem Google of any responsibility for how its tools and technology are being used by governments and the military. Koren says with a company as impactful as Google, this is highly irresponsible.
While talking about how she felt about Google not being able to back out of the contract, Koren said Google has a precedent in play if it decides to pull out of contracts in response to organizing the workers. Relating it to Project Maven, she said that a large number of Google workers, who were not in favor of the contract, protested against the project and with the right numbers of employees, it worked. Project Maven was about a surveillance contract using drones for the Pentagon.
She quoted another example of Project Dragonfly that censored search engines for the Chinese government. In the same way, concerned workers teamed up and forced google to back out of the contract. They were successful as well. Koren hopes the same precedent works for her concerns related to Project Nimbus.
Need for an Unbiased Approach
Koren believes that the size of Google forces it to be much more responsible in not choosing political sides and to remain unbiased for its services and technologies. She believes that workers like her hold the values of the company very dear and realize the importance and impact the company has on the rest of the world. She believes that anyone willing to join Google should join Alphabet Workers Union. This will assist them to take part in worker efforts to resist in case the company exerts any power on them.
She hopes that the company would in turn not only affirm the workers’ rights and freedom of speech but also ensure that Palestinian workers have the right to be themselves even in the workplace.
This is the Reality Behind Google Workers’ Protests Against the Israeli Government Cloud Deal.