Google, Amazon workers protest military cloud contracts
Amazon and Google workers have started protesting against their employer’s involvement with Project Nimbus, a joint cloud computing project with the Israeli government.
The $1.2 billion contract, which Oracle and Microsoft bid for but lost out on, has seen pointed opposition since it was first announced in early 2022.
Critics have alleged that the Israeli military could potentially weaponize its cloud computing infrastructure to surveil or oppress Palestinians, for example leveraging it to empower facial recognition systems.
The protests were spread across the US, with demonstrations in San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Durham, North Carolina.
A Google spokesperson, Atle Erlingsson, has maintained that protestors are “misrepresenting the contract.”
“As we have stated many times, the contract is for workloads running on our commercial platform by Israeli government ministries such as finance, healthcare, transportation, and education,” he said in a statement.
“Our work is not directed at highly sensitive or classified military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”
However, Google Cloud software engineer Josh Marxen detailed how some of the products could be utilized for agressive ends.
“We know that the AI, machine learning and big data management technologies are the ones that are going to be the most instrumental if they were to be integrated into the surveillance systems,” he said.
Amazon has not yet issued a comment on the matter, but this is not the first time the company’s employees have hit out against their bosses.
Over 700 Amazon workers at a depot in Tilbury in Essex, UK went on strike in opposition to an “insulting” pay rise offer in August 2022.
Controversy seems to have accompanied massive cloud contracts in recent years, often on financial rather than moral grounds.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently secured a $10 billion contract from the US National Security Agency (NSA), besting rival Microsoft.
The contract, codenamed “Wild and Stormy,” has been the subject of many heated back and forth disputes between regulators and tech giants concerning who gets to handle the highly lucrative Pentagon cloud business.
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