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29 Aug 2023

Suhauna Hussain, Los Angeles Times

USA: Hundreds of Google employees protest $1.2 billion contract with Israeli govt. & military

"‘Google has no scruples.’ Employees protest Google Cloud conference over Israel military contract", 29 August 2023

A protest erupted...at a Google Cloud conference in San Francisco, as employees critical of the company’s contract with Israel’s military sought to ratchet up pressure at the company’s annual showcase of its latest products and technology.

Hundreds of protesters gathered as attendees of the annual Google Cloud Next conference flowed out of the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco for a scheduled 5 p.m. happy hour, having wrapped up speaker sessions and workshops for the day.

About 30 people lined up and chained themselves together on Howard Street, which runs through the convention center...and overhead on a nearby pedestrian footbridge. The protesters, among them former Google employees and local community activists, unfurled a large banner reading, “Google Project Nimbus fuels Israeli apartheid.”

More than a dozen current Google workers positioned themselves nearby, passing out fliers explaining their objections to Project Nimbus, a $1.2-billion contract that Google and Amazon Web Services entered into with the Israeli government and military.

A group of workers has opposed Project Nimbus since it launched in 2021, concerned that Google’s technology could help the Israeli Defense Forces surveil and harm Palestinians...

Workers said Project Nimbus is the kind of lucrative contract that neglects ethical guardrails that outspoken members of Google’s workforce have demanded in recent years.

“I am very worried that Google has no scruples if they’re going to work with the Israeli government,” said Joshua Marxen, a Google Cloud software engineer who helped to organize the protest. “Google has given us no reason to trust them.”...

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Tuesday protest and workers’ concerns over Project Nimbus...

Google has largely refused to release details of the contract, the specific capabilities Israel will receive, or how they will be used. In July 2022, the Intercept reported that training documents for Israeli government personnel indicate Google is providing software that the company claims can recognize people, gauge emotional states from facial expressions and track objects in video footage.

Google Cloud spokesperson Atle Erlingsson told Wired in September 2022 that the company proudly supports Israel’s government and said critics had misrepresented Project Nimbus. “Our work is not directed at highly sensitive or classified military workloads,” he told Wired. Erlingsson, however, acknowledged that the contract will provide Israel’s military access to Google technology...