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Google Fires Employees Involved in Protest Against Its Cloud Contract with Israel

'Their behavior was unacceptable, extremely disruptive, and made coworkers feel threatened,' said the company's head of global security

Google Fires Employees Involved in Protest Against Its Cloud Contract with Israel

Google fired 28 employees who staged a sit-in protest objecting to its involvement in a cloud project with the Israeli government.

The employees were based in the company’s offices in New York and California. At least nine had been suspended and arrested on April 16. At least some had been occupying the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian and had to be forcibly removed.

The protest lasted 10 hours and was captured, in part, on a live stream on Twitch.

Google’s head of global security Chris Rackow sent a memo to all of its staff members the next day warning that “behavior like this has no place in our workplace and we will not tolerate it.” Rackow said the protestors “took over office spaces, defaced our property, and physically impeded the work of other Googlers.”

“Their behavior was unacceptable, extremely disruptive, and made coworkers feel threatened,” he wrote in the message which was obtained by The Verge. He said the protestors' actions "clearly violates multiple policies that all employees must adhere to — including our Code of Conduct and Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation, Standards of Conduct, and Workplace Concerns.”

“The overwhelming majority of our employees do the right thing. If you’re one of the few who are tempted to think we’re going to overlook conduct that violates our policies, think again,” Rackow warned. “The company takes this extremely seriously, and we will continue to apply our longstanding policies to take action against disruptive behavior — up to and including termination.”

The protest was reportedly led by No Tech for Apartheid. Participants object to Google’s involvement in Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion cloud contract with the Israeli government. Amazon is also involved in the project. The collaborative technology effort, which provides Israel and its military AI services, was announced in 2021.

According to Time:

Nimbus reportedly involves Google establishing a secure instance of Google Cloud on Israeli soil, which would allow the Israeli government to perform large-scale data analysis, AI training, database hosting, and other forms of powerful computing using Google’s technology, with little oversight by the company. Google documents, first reported by the Intercept in 2022, suggest that the Google services on offer to Israel via its Cloud have capabilities such as AI-enabled facial detection, automated image categorization, and object tracking.

Further details of the contract are scarce or non-existent, and much of the workers’ frustration lies in what they say is Google’s lack of transparency about what else Project Nimbus entails and the full nature of the company’s relationship with Israel. Neither Google, nor Amazon, nor Israel, has described the specific capabilities on offer to Israel under the contract. 

In October of 2021, anonymous Google and Amazon employees published an open letter in The Guardian objecting to Project Nimbus.

We believe that the technology we build should work to serve and uplift people everywhere, including all of our users. As workers who keep these companies running, we are morally obligated to speak out against violations of these core values,” the wrote.

“Our employers signed a contract called Project Nimbus to sell dangerous technology to the Israeli military and government. This contract was signed the same week that the Israeli military attacked Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – killing nearly 250 people, including more than 60 children,” the workers stated. “The technology our companies have contracted to build will make the systematic discrimination and displacement carried out by the Israeli military and government even crueler and deadlier for Palestinians.”

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