Amazon and Google workers have begun protesting their employers’ participation in Project Nimbus, a cloud computing project jointly with the Israeli government.
The $1.2 billion contract, which Oracle and Microsoft offered but lost, has faced fierce opposition since it was first announced in early 2022.
Critics have claimed that the Israeli military could use cloud computing infrastructure as a weapon to monitor or suppress Palestinians, for example taking advantage of it to enable facial recognition systems.
The protests spread across the United States, with demonstrations in San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Durham, North Carolina.
A Google spokesperson, Atle Erlingsson, confirmed that the protesters were “perverting the contract.”
“As we’ve mentioned several times, the contract is for workloads running on our trading 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 covert military workloads related to weapons or intelligence services.”
However, Google Cloud software engineer Josh Marxen detailed how some products can be used for aggressive ends.
“We know that artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data management techniques are the ones that will be most effective if they are integrated into monitoring systems,” he said.
Amazon has not yet made any comment on the matter, but this isn’t the first time the company’s employees have attacked their bosses.
More than 700 Amazon workers at a warehouse in Tilbury in Essex, UK, went on strike to protest an “insulting” offer of a wage increase in August 2022.
Controversy appears to have accompanied huge cloud contracts in recent years, often for financial rather than ethical reasons.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently won a $10 billion contract from the US National Security Agency (NSA), outselling rival Microsoft.
The contract, codenamed “Wild and Stormy,” has been the subject of several heated disputes between regulators and tech giants over who can handle the Pentagon’s highly lucrative cloud business.
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