Home IT Google fires 28 employees over Israel contract protest

Google fires 28 employees over Israel contract protest

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Google confirmed the dismissal of 28 employees this week, following protests against the company’s cloud contract with the Israeli government.

A handful of protesting employees had disrupted work at various office locations, violating company policies and hindering others from accessing facilities, stated Google

The employees who were let go were identified after individual investigations. Google has stated that it will continue to investigate and take necessary action. In response to this, Google workers associated with the No Tech for Apartheid campaign have criticized the dismissals as retaliation and highlighted the right to peaceful protest concerning labor conditions.

The protesters allege that Project Nimbus, a contract worth $1.2 billion with Google and Amazon.com, aids the Israeli government in developing military tools. The group claimed in a statement on Medium that Google has created custom tools for Israel’s Ministry of Defence and has intensified its contracting with the Israeli forces since the commencement of its actions against Palestinians in Gaza.

However, Google has clarified in its statement that the Nimbus contract “does not cater to highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services”.

It’s worth noting that protests at Google are not a new phenomenon. Back in 2018, workers successfully persuaded the company to abandon a contract with the US military, Project Maven, which was intended to analyze aerial drone imagery with potential application in warfare

Google Cloud’s relationship with the Israeli government

Google Cloud’s relationship with the Israeli government has been under scrutiny since 2021, when it was announced that Google had been selected to provide public cloud services to address various challenges in the country’s public sector, including healthcare, transportation, and education.

However, protests erupted following a report by Time magazine earlier this month. The report, citing an internal company document, revealed that Israel’s Ministry of Defense is a customer of Google Cloud.

As per the report, the ministry has its own secure access point to the Google-provided computing infrastructure. This access allows it to store and process data, and utilize artificial intelligence services. The ministry had also sought Google’s consulting assistance earlier this year to expand its access to Google Cloud.

Amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, smoke was seen rising from Gaza, as viewed from Israel’s border with Gaza, in southern Israel, on March 17, 2024.

A related article reported that Israel is using artificial intelligence to help select bombing targets in Gaza. The group No Tech for Apartheid claimed that the article demonstrated that Google had constructed custom tools for the Ministry of Defense and had intensified its contracting with Israel’s military since the onset of the conflict.

A spokesperson for Google stated that Google Cloud supports numerous governments worldwide, including the Israeli government. They clarified that the Nimbus contract is for workloads running on their commercial cloud by Israeli government ministries. These ministries agree to comply with Google’s Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy. The work is not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.

In a separate development, Google confirmed that it is laying off an unspecified number of employees as part of an internal reorganization. The layoffs will not be across the entire company, and affected employees will have the opportunity to apply for other open positions within Google.

Earlier this year, Google had laid off hundreds of employees, contributing to a series of job cuts in the tech and media industries, which included companies like Amazon, Vice, and the Los Angeles Times.

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