Google and Amazon face shareholder revolt over Israeli Defense Work

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An Israeli border police stands guard as Palestinians make their way through Qalandia checkpoint to attend the last Friday prayer of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Al Aqsa Mosque, Palestinian Territories, Ramallah, on April 29, 2022. (credit:  Ilia Yefimovich/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)
“Project Nimbus” would insulate the Israeli government’s cloud computing from political pressures stemming from the military occupation of Palestine.

By Sam Biddle | The Intercept | May 18, 2022

“This technology allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land,”
— letter from anonymous Google and Amazon employees

GOOGLE AND AMAZON are both set to help build “Project Nimbus,” a mammoth new cloud computing project for the Israeli government and military that is spurring intense dissent among employees and the public alike. Shareholders of both firms will soon vote on resolutions that would mandate reconsideration of a project they fear has grave human rights consequences.

Little is known of the plan, reportedly worth over $1 billion, beyond the fact that it would consolidate the Israeli government’s public sector cloud computing needs onto servers housed within the country’s borders and subject solely to Israeli law, rather than remote data centers distributed around the world. Part of the plan’s promise is that it would insulate Israel’s computing needs from threats of international boycotts, sanctions, or other political pressures stemming from the ongoing military occupation of Palestine; according to a Times of Israel report, the terms of the Project Nimbus contract prohibit both companies from shutting off service to the government, or from selectively excluding certain government offices from using the new domestic cloud.

It remains unclear what technologies exactly will be provided through Nimbus or to what end, an ambiguity critics say is unnerving. Google in particular is known for the sophistication of its cloud-based offerings that are perfectly suited for population-scale surveillance, including powerful image recognition technology that made the company initially so alluring to the Pentagon’s drone program. In 2020, The Intercept reported that Customs and Border Protection would use Google Cloud software to analyze video data from its controversial surveillance initiative along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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