Thirty-two human rights organizations to Google: "get your cloud out of Saudi Arabia"

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and dozens of other organizations issued a joint statement on May 26 urging Google to halt or abandon its plan for a "cloud region" in Saudi Arabia, noting the country's extensive human rights abuses. The public statement and resulting media coverage offer a good example of one of the ways that non-employee interest groups can put pressure on Big Tech to change its behavior. Below I'll include some extracts from the official joint statement as released by Human Rights Watch, plus CNN's coverage.

- Bruce

Official HRW release:

Saudi Arabia: Google Should Halt Plans to Establish Cloud Region

Joint Statement by Human Rights and Digital Privacy Rights Organizations

May 26, 2021

The undersigned human rights and digital rights organizations urge Google to immediately halt its plan to establish a new Google Cloud region in Saudi Arabia until the company can publicly demonstrate how it will mitigate adverse human rights impacts.

Saudi Arabia’s recent track record of repression of all public dissent, alleged espionage and infiltration of technology platforms, use of cyber surveillance software to spy on dissidents, and a notorious justice system that flagrantly violates due process rights make Saudi Arabia an unsafe country to host Google Cloud services. It is additionally concerning that Google’s Cloud region will be in partnership with a state-owned company, Saudi Aramco...

Saudi Arabia has an extensive record of seeking to spy on its own citizens, including through illegally accessing their personal information within US technology companies, and has amassed a dismal human rights record in which authorities have unleashed a wave of domestic repression that has attempted to crush peaceful dissent. Given this reality, Google’s plan raises serious concerns about how it can and will uphold its human rights responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) to prevent or mitigate the adverse human rights impacts that are clearly linked to the hosting of a cloud region in Saudi Arabia...

Google has a responsibility to respect human rights, regardless of any state’s willingness to fulfill its own human rights obligations. The company’s statement on human rights asserts its commitment “to respecting the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its implementing treaties, as well as upholding the standards established in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and in the Global Network Initiative Principles (GNI Principles)” across all of its products, including Cloud...

CNN article:
Google urged to abandon Saudi cloud project

May 26, 2021

Dozens of campaign groups are urging Google to abandon a cloud computing project in Saudi Arabia, saying the company is at risk of being "complicit in future human rights violations."

Google announced plans late last year to establish a "cloud region" in Saudi Arabia in partnership with Saudi Aramco...

But groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the deal, citing concerns raised following the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and allegations that Saudi Arabia uses cyber tools to spy on dissidents...

"The Saudi government has demonstrated time and again a flagrant disregard for human rights, both through its own direct actions against human rights defenders and its spying on corporate digital platforms to do the same," the activists said in their statement.

"We fear that in partnering with the Saudi government, Google will become complicit in future human rights violations affecting people in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region," they added...

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