Google Employee Claims She Was Pressured to Resign After Speaking out Against Israeli AI Contract Secrecy.
After nearly ten years at Google, one employee alleges she is being pressured to retire because she spoke out against the company’s covert $1.2 billion cloud project with the Israeli government.
Ariel Koren, a marketing manager, shared her reasons for leaving the company in an open letter published on Gizmodo on Tuesday. A Jewish Google employee named Koren claims she was subjected to retaliation and “illegal conduct” before deciding this week to leave the business.
Within the corporation, Koren has been a prominent activist who has driven numerous petitions for Google to cancel the Project Nimbus contract. More than 800 Google employees and 37,500 members of the public signed one of those petitions.
Koren and other Google employees believe that Project Nimbus violates Google’s own AI standards since it would supply artificial intelligence and cloud tools to the Israeli government and military, while information about the project is still few.
Koren said Nimbus’ resources “have the potential to increase Israel’s pattern of monitoring, racial profiling, and other sorts of tech-assisted human rights violations.”
According to Koren, Google is “aggressively seeking military contracts and stripping away the voices of its employees through a pattern of silence and punishment towards me and many others” instead of listening to employees who want the company to live up to its ethical standards.
During a phone interview with Gizmodo, Koren described in full what he claims was Google’s retribution. She told us that when she got back from disability leave at the end of last year, she was given an impossible choice: either move from San Francisco to Google’s office in So Paulo, Brazil within 17 days or be let off.
In Koren’s view, there was no logical explanation for the unexpected relocation. The employee thinks Google was just being “clever” about how they got her to resign without firing her.
Previously, “Google would just dismiss individuals in order to react,” but now that the company is under so much scrutiny, “Google has attempted to get a little more creative and retaliation takes forms that are distinct from firing employees,” Koren added.
In a statement to Gizmodo, Google strongly denied Koren’s allegations and said it has a zero-tolerance policy against workplace retaliation.
A Google spokeswoman stated, “We extensively reviewed this employee’s claim, as we do when any concerns are presented, and as we’ve stated for many months, our investigation showed there was no retribution here.”
The speaker continued by offering sympathetic assistance to the Project Nimbus representative.
To further aid in Israel’s digital transformation, the Israeli government has chosen Google Cloud to provide public cloud services, and a Google representative expressed their delight at the news.
This initiative will make Google Cloud Platform accessible to government agencies for commonplace workloads including finance, healthcare, transportation, and education; it will not be used for classified or secretive tasks.
According to reports, 750 Google employees signed a petition opposing the alleged retribution earlier this year, and Koren filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations board. According to the New York Times, both Google and the National Labor Relations Board looked into the claim and found no cause for concern.
In recent years, Google has come under fire for reportedly terminating employees who have spoken out against the firm. To protest Google’s dismissal of AI ethicist Timnit Gebru for raising issues with the company’s diversity procedures, more than 1,500 workers signed a petition in 2020.
The Alphabet Workers Union, which speaks for employees at Google and Alphabet’s other companies, supported Koren in a statement issued to Gizmodo.
Alphabet Workers Union Executive Chair Parul Koul said in a statement, “It is the right of all Alphabet employees to voice our concerns and objections to initiatives like Nimbus and organize against them internally, fully free of fear of punishment.”
We have a right to join the thousands of Google employees who have protested military contracts in the past, such as Project Maven. The hostility and intimidation that Ariel has experienced are completely unnecessary. That she was put in a position where resignation was her only choice is unacceptable.
However, Koren’s criticisms of Google extend far beyond Project Nimbus and into the very fabric of the firm itself. Employees of any religion or ethnicity who try to speak out against Google’s ties to the Israeli government are “systematically silenced,” in her opinion.
Koren highlighted a culture at Google in which employees who voice criticism are frequently silenced. Koren added that employees are encouraged to share their support for Israel and that the corporation is “very receptive” to such discussions.
Fifteen more Google employees, including several who identify as Palestinian, voiced similar concerns in comments released on Tuesday, further exposing what they see as anti-Palestinian bias within the firm.
Before hearing about Project Nimbus, working at Google was “always my ideal job,” one employee stated. When I think about how my family is treated at home, I realize that I am profiting from their suffering.
The voices of Palestinian employees were not being heard, according to other employees.
Another Google employee expressed his or her sympathies for the Palestinians by saying, “As a Palestinian, my sentiments of marginalization only deepened when I began to see my coworkers issued warnings solely for having empathy for Palestinians.”
Google has been through this previously, albeit in a different country, so the whole thing may seem familiar. Nearly a dozen Google employees quit in 2018 over the company’s controversial Project Maven military contract, in which it offered artificial intelligence capabilities to the United States Department of Defense to analyze drones’ footage.
These departures, together with a tidal wave of activity from Google employees, contributed to the company’s decision to scrap Project Maven. In 2018, reports surfaced suggesting Google has rekindled its interest in a cloud computing project at the Pentagon.
At a recent event, Google’s Koren portrayed the company’s recent response to employee criticism of Nimbus as an “extension” of its efforts following the backlash from Project Maven.
After Maven, Google’s internal communications reportedly changed from being somewhat open to being shrouded in secrecy, as reported by Koren. In the past, other Google employees have made similar comments.
“Nimbus is an extension of that pattern,” Koren explained. When Nimbus was first released, Google was quite secretive about who was involved in the project. They acted in a highly covert manner.