Google employees protest: 'Don't bid for border control cloud contract'

Google workers are demanding the company doesn't bid for an immigration contract, even though it already supplies the agency with cloud services.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google employees are calling on the company not to bid on a cloud contract with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in protest against the agency's activities at the Mexican border, which have been described as human-rights abuses

The petition demands that Google does not bid on a recently published CBP request for information (RFI) for a "cloud services provider". 

However, Google employees also want the company to publicly commit to not providing its services to CBP or to related border control authorities US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). 

The petition was launched publicly in a post on Medium on Wednesday, at the same time as it was distributed internally. According to the post, so far 676 Google employees have added their support to the petition. 

It's also been signed by 48 non-Google employees, including several engineers at Amazon and its cloud business, AWS, as well as dozens of academics.

The Google employees point to the agencies' controversial immigration enforcement actions under the Trump administration, which include locking up asylum seekers in cages, separating children from parents, and poor conditions at detention camps. 

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"These abuses are illegal under international human-rights law, and immoral by any standard," the group of Google employees write, pointing to posts by the UN and Amnesty International decrying the conditions immigrants endure at US detention centers.   

"We demand that Google publicly commits not to support CBP, ICE, or ORR with any infrastructure, funding, or engineering resources, directly or indirectly, until they stop engaging in human-rights abuses."

The employees also point to Google's AI principles, which say Google won't build tech "whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights".

Google actually already provides cloud services to CBP, which notes in the RFI that its existing cloud environment includes Google Cloud Platform, AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, and Oracle Cloud. 

It also lists Salesforce, whose employees protested against its work with CBP last year after the introduction of President Trump's zero-tolerance policy, which aimed to separate children from parents when they don't enter the US through a border control. At the time, 100 Microsoft employees called on it to end its work with ICE

Employees at Amazon also petitioned the company to end its support of ICE. AWS provides cloud services to analytics specialist Palantir, which helps ICE detention and deportation programs.

Google has faced numerous protests from workers in recent years over a broad range of issues beyond how its technology is used. 

Employees were involved in an internal conflict over political views after Google fired engineer James Damore because of his memo about the gender gap in engineering. 

There was also a global walk-out over Google's policy of mandatory arbitration for sexual misconduct cases in the wake of a report that Android co-creator Andy Rubin got a $90m exit package in 2014, despite leaving after being accused of sexual misconduct. 

As for the CBP's new RFI, the agency is actually seeking a reseller to manage its existing cloud infrastructure providers. 

"The contractor shall deliver the ability to obtain access and acquire IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and XaaS services across multiple industry leading cloud service providers, including CBP's existing cloud services," the CBP states.  

"CBP requires an authorized public-sector reseller to provide access to current and future compute levels across (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and any additional 'as a service' offerings. 

"The objective is to acquire cloud-computing services directly from commercial cloud service providers with established records for innovation and operational excellence in cloud service delivery for a large customer base."

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