Google executives defend Project Nimbus at all-hands meeting

  • A Google executive told employees his contract with Israel does not cover military applications
  • Some workers say Google’s other statements about the contract indicate it will help the Israeli military.
  • A Google spokesman said the contract is for Israeli government ministries such as healthcare.

Google executives recently tried to reassure employees that the controversial $1.2 billion cloud computing deal with the Israeli government will not support the country’s sensitive military work.

In leaked audio transcripts of the company’s weekly meeting shared with insiders, Adaire Fox-Martin, Google Cloud’s head of international operations, said the project — known as Project Nimbus — “is not targeting highly sensitive or classified military workloads required for intelligence agencies.” are relevant or weapons.”

She claimed that Nimbus, which Google won in a public bid alongside Amazon, is destined for other Israeli government departments. “The Nimbus contract applies to 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 “works with governments that share values ​​and ensures we help them in critical areas in line with our AI principles.”

Project Nimbus was a flash point within the company, with some employees saying providing services to the Israeli government that could use those services for its military was a violation of Google’s core values. A report in The Intercept detailed how Google’s machine learning and AI tools could be used to monitor Palestinians.

Earlier this month, several Google employees in offices including San Francisco and New York publicly protested the agreement after Ariel Koren, a former Google employee who opposed the company’s work on Project Nimbus, resigned.

A Google spokesman said the contract covers “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 relevant to weapons or intelligence,” the spokesperson added.

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

“The answer to the Nimbus question to the All-Hands is exactly the same line that Google Cloud spokespeople have been using since the September 8 No Tech for Apartheid day of action,” said this person. They referred to earlier statements that a Google spokesman confirmed to WIRED the deal that will give Israel’s military access to Google technology.

“This is a common strategy at Google: repeat PR talks about the public services that could use our technology and hide the dangerous military uses they directly propose to customers and the defense sector press,” said this person.

As Google has grown its cloud computing business and attempted to win government contracts, controversy over their use has increased. In 2018, critics slammed the company for its Project Maven, a Pentagon drone surveillance contract. He later decided 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 Twitter DM at @cityofthetown.

Contact reporter Rosalie Chan via email at rmchan@insider.com, signal at 646.376.6106, or telegram at @rosaliechan.

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