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24 Jul 2022

Sam Biddle, The Intercept

Google allegedly offers to augment Israel’s ability to surveil people; co. declined to comment.

"Documents reveal advanced AI tools Google is selling to Israel", 24 July 2022

TRAINING MATERIALS REVIEWED by The Intercept confirm that Google is offering advanced artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities to the Israeli government through its controversial “Project Nimbus” contract.

Google engineers have spent the time since worrying whether their efforts would inadvertently bolster the ongoing Israeli military occupation of Palestine. In 2021, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International formally accused Israel of committing crimes against humanity by maintaining an apartheid system against Palestinians. While the Israeli military and security services already rely on a sophisticated system of computerized surveillance, the sophistication of Google’s data analysis offerings could worsen the increasingly data-driven military occupation.

According to a trove of training documents and videos obtained by The Intercept through a publicly accessible educational portal intended for Nimbus users, Google is providing the Israeli government with the full suite of machine-learning and AI tools available through Google Cloud Platform. While they provide no specifics as to how Nimbus will be used, the documents indicate that the new cloud would give Israel capabilities for facial detection, automated image categorization, object tracking, and even sentiment analysis that claims to assess the emotional content of pictures, speech, and writing.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Many of the capabilities outlined in the documents obtained by The Intercept could easily augment Israel’s ability to surveil people and process vast stores of data — already prominent features of the Israeli occupation.

“Data collection over the entire Palestinian population was and is an integral part of the occupation,” Ori Givati of Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation advocacy group of Israeli military veterans, told The Intercept in an email. “Generally, the different technological developments we are seeing in the Occupied Territories all direct to one central element which is more control.”

Google workers who reviewed the documents said they were concerned by their employer’s sale of these technologies to Israel, fearing both their inaccuracy and how they might be used for surveillance or other militarized purposes.

The employee — who, like other Google workers who spoke to The Intercept, requested anonymity to avoid workplace reprisals — added that they were further alarmed by potential surveillance or other militarized applications of AutoML, another Google AI tool offered through Nimbus.