Google Should End Police Contracts, Employees Says - Do They Have a Point?

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source: Pixabay

Google employees have started a petition urging the tech giant to stop selling technology to police departments.

The internal letter, with the headline "No Police Contracts," has been signed by more than 1,100 Google employees, who branded themselves as part of "Googlers Against Racism."

Signers of the petition call the CEO Sundar Pichai to "take real steps to dismantle racism." Moreover, they also opine that Google is "profiting" off racism with business contracts.

Last week, Pichai committed to donating USD 175 million to support black businesses. Shortly after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, Google announced plans to increase "underrepresented" people in its management. 

Besides, the Mountain View-based firm said it would end peer-based badge checking, deferring to security teams.

However, according to some of the employees who signed the petition, all of this is not enough. They said they are disappointed that Google's artificial intelligence technology is being used by the authorities to "track down immigrants with drones." 

For instance, the letter openly criticizes Google for citing New York's Clarkstown Police Department as a featured user of Google Cloud. The agency has been accused of unlawful surveillance of Black Lives Matter on numerous occasions.

Furthermore, the signers opine that Google's political action committee, funded by the employees, supports the campaigns of "racist politicians" and" white supremacists."

Fellow tech companies such as Microsoft and Amazon already refused to sell their facial recognition technology to police agencies. 

In response to the wave of criticism, Google Cloud spokesperson Cynthia Horiguchi said that the company's employees made over 500 product suggestions to fight racism, and the firm is reviewing them now.

Horiguchi reaffirmed Google's commitment to combat systematic racism, highlighting that it does not produce facial recognition software for commercial use.

She also noted that Google had detailed artificial intelligence principles that prohibit the use or sale of surveillance. However, the spokeswoman emphasized that computing platforms such as Gmail, GSuite and Google Cloud would remain available for local authorities, including police departments.

It is not the first time that Google's employees confront the company's policy and its controversial government contracts. In the past, Google team members pressured the tech giant to end Project Maven, a contract with the Pentagon. It was part of a plan to built a censored search product for China, known as Project Dragonfly. 

Following internal protests, Google did not renew its contract with the Pentagon in 2018 and was set to discontinue working on Dragonfly in December 2018. 

In August 2019, hundreds of employees asked Google not to bid on a project with the US immigration agency Customs and Border Patrol amid the living conditions in detention centers.

What do you think? Do you support or oppose Google's decision not to end police contracts?