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Google employees urge company not to bid on US border agency contract



Over 500 Googlers are urging their company not to bid on a cloud-computing contract with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in what’s the latest in a series of employee protests at the Silicon Valley tech giant.

The CBP contract— which seeks to “acquire services from a Cloud Services Provider” — has stirred controversy amongst Google’s rank-and-file due to the agency’s recent handling of migrants at the US southern border, the petition released on Wednesday said.

“The winning cloud provider will be streamlining CBP’s infrastructure and facilitating its human rights abuses,” the petition read, in part. “We demand that Google publicly commit 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 contract was first posted on July 10th and bids were due on August 1st.

A Google spokesperson declined to confirm with Business Insider whether or not the company bid on the cloud services contract.

From the list of “interested vendors” on the Federal Business Opportunities website, it is not immediately clear if Google is amongst the 21 vendors who applied. From the statement of work, it is also not immediately clear how much the contract could potentially be worth, though Google employees on Wednesday described it as “massive.”

Read more: Google reportedly has a massive culture problem that’s destroying it from the inside

In their petition, employees pointed to Google’s AI Principles as reason for not working with the CBP, an agency they say is in “grave violation of international human rights law.” Those AI principals were established last June when Google decided not to renew its contract with the Pentagon — known as Project Maven — after thousands of employees wrote a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai and demanded that the company “not be in the business of war.”

Within the statement of work, the Department of Homeland Security notes that the CBP already uses Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud, and Google Cloud Platform for its “Enterprise Infrastructure.” The contract, it appears, aims at consolidating the number of cloud providers for the CBP.

“The Government is pursuing a cloud strategy to increase access to cloud innovation and reduce the disadvantages associated with multiple cloud service providers/resellers,” the statement of work reads.

Google has come under hot water as of late from lawmakers in Washington, and in particular, tech billionaire Peter Thiel, for not supporting projects with the US military — like its decision to not renew its AI contract with the Pentagon. Critics say while the Silicon Valley giant shuns the US military, it’s simultaneously engaging in research efforts in China, which by law in that country require sharing information with the Chinese military.

Thiel said Google’s actions are “seemingly treasonous,” and called on the FBI and CIA to investigate. Recently, in early August, President Donald Trump said that Google was being watched “very closely.”

Although it remains unclear whether Google has actually bid on the CBP contract, the petition from employees shows just how difficult it will be for the tech giant to pursue major government deals as it tries to ramp up its cloud computing division. Government contracts are an important revenue stream for cloud leaders, Amazon and Microsoft, and with employee backlash at even the prospect of a deal, it seems like attempts by Google to enter that arena could be thwarted internally.

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