Amnesty International joints with human rights groups to halt Google’s cloud business in Saudi

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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An international non-governmental organization, Amnesty International has joined forces with 38 other human rights groups and individuals to call for a halt to tech giant Google’s intentions to open an enterprise cloud business in Saudi Arabia because of concerns over the country’s human rights track record.

An international non-profit digital rights group, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Media Matters for Democracy, among others, have signed a joint statement urging Google to stop its plans in Saudi Arabia unless the firm conducts a public human rights assessment and clarifies which types of government data it won’t honor.

Even more crucial, according to the letter writers, is conducting the investigation in the open, speaking to groups in the nation that can better grasp the issues, and consulting with those who Google could inadvertently help Saudi Arabia harm.

The organizations point to several human rights violations that they believe should cause Google to think twice. Saudi Arabia has a documented history of spying on and violating the privacy of its citizens, including allegedly recruiting Twitter employees to spy on the firm from within.

In 2020, Google stated that Saudi Arabia would become one of its new “Cloud Regions,” with plans to build cloud infrastructure and work with Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, to resell enterprise cloud services.

Activist groups such as Access Now and the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic reacted to the news, particularly given Google’s initial blog post included a quote from Snapchat’s developers, Snap, endorsing the business, according to Protocol reports. Since then, the quote has been removed.

According to Access Now, Google informed concerned groups that it had done an independent human rights assessment of its potential cloud region and has taken actions to address the issues it had identified. However, the company did not disclose what those issues were or what it did, which fueled today’s protests by groups and people.

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