Just In: Amnesty International calls for Google to halt cloud business in Saudi Arabia

Filed in Internet by on May 26, 2021

Amnesty International has joined 38 other human rights organizations and individuals in calling for a halt to Google’s plans to establish an enterprise cloud business in Saudi Arabia due to concerns about the country’s human rights record.

The joint statement, signed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Media Matters for Democracy, among others, calls on Google to halt its plans in Saudi Arabia until it conducts a public human rights assessment and makes clear what types of government data requests it will not honor.

Even more important, the letter writers argue, is that the investigation is conducted openly, with actual consultation with the people Google could inadvertently help Saudi Arabia harm, and with groups in the country that can better understand the issues there.

The organizations point to a number of human rights violations that they believe should cause Google to reconsider. Saudi Arabia has a history of attempting to spy on and violate the privacy of its citizens, including allegedly recruiting Twitter employees to spy on the company from within.

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It has also used extreme and violent methods to silence dissent from those in positions of power, most recently with the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Google initially announced plans to make Saudi Arabia a new “Cloud Region” in 2020, with plans to build cloud infrastructure and partner with Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, to resell enterprise cloud services.

According to Protocol, the announcement sparked a reaction from activist groups such as Access Now and the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, especially because Google’s original blog post included a quote from Snap, the creators of Snapchat, promoting the business. Since then, the quote has been removed.

According to Access Now, Google informed concerned parties that it had conducted an independent human rights assessment of its future cloud region and that it had taken steps to address any issues that had been identified.

However, the company did not share what those issues were or what it did, motivating some of the groups and individuals who are criticizing the company today.

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