Google executives defend Project Nimbus at all-hands meeting

Google executives defend Project Nimbus at all-hands meeting

  • Google executive tells employees its contract with Israel does not extend to military applications
  • Some employees say Google’s other statements about the contract indicate it will help Israel’s military.
  • A Google spokesman said the contract covers Israeli government ministries such as health.

Google executives recently sought to reassure employees that its controversial $1.2 billion cloud computing contract with the Israeli government will not provide support for the country’s sensitive military work.

In leaked audio from the company’s weekly meeting and shared with Insider, Adaire Fox-Martin, Google Cloud’s head of international operations, said the project — known as Project Nimbus — “is not aimed at highly sensitive or classified military workloads intelligence-related or weapons’.

He claimed that Nimbus, which Google won in a public tender process along with Amazon, is for other parts of the Israeli government. “The Nimbus contract is for workloads run on our commercial platform by Israeli government ministries,” Fox-Martin said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We look forward to continuing to work with Israel in the public sector.”

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai added that the company “partners with governments that share our values ​​and ensures that we help them in critical areas that are consistent with the principles of artificial intelligence.”

Project Nimbus has been a flashpoint at the company, with some employees saying that providing services for the Israeli government, which could use those services for its military, is a violation of Google’s core values. A report in The Intercept describes how Google’s machine learning and artificial intelligence tools could be used to track Palestinians.

Earlier this month, several Googlers in offices including San Francisco and New York publicly protested the deal after the resignation of Ariel Koren, a former Google employee who spoke out against the company’s work on Project Nimbus.

A Google spokesperson said the contract is for “workloads performed on our commercial platform by Israeli government ministries,” such as finance, healthcare, transportation and education. “However, our work does not address highly sensitive or classified military workloads related to weapons or intelligence services,” the spokesman added.

Some employees who attended Tuesday’s meeting said assurances from Google executives about Project Nimbus contradict what the company has said elsewhere.

“The answer to Nimbus’ question is the exact same line that Google Cloud representatives have been using since the No Tech for Apartheid day of action on September 8,” this person said. They pointed to earlier statements a Google representative made to WIRED acknowledging that the contract would provide Israel’s military access to Google technology.

“This is a common Google strategy: redo the public discussions about public services that might use our technology and hide the dangerous military applications they present directly to customers and the defense press,” this person said.

As Google has expanded its cloud computing business and tried to win government contracts, it has faced increasing controversy over its implementation. In 2018, critics slammed the company for Project Maven, a Pentagon drone surveillance contract. He later chose not to renew the contract.

Do you work at Google? Do you have a tip? Contact reporter Tom Dotan via email at tdotan@insider.com or DM on Twitter at @cityofthetown.

Contact reporter Rosalie Chan by email at rmchan@insider.com, Signal at 646.376.6106 or Telegram at @rosaliechan.

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