Google employees have sent a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai demanding that the search giant stop selling its technology to police forces, a call that comes as people around the world call for police reform as part of efforts to end systemic racism.
As of publication, more than 1,600 Google workers had signed the letter, which was viewed by CNET.
The letter calls out Google’s work with police and military through Gradient Ventures, a venture capital arm of the search giant that was founded in 2017 and focuses on artificial intelligence. The employees also criticized Google’s cloud division for touting its relationship with the Clarkstown Police Department in New York. Using Google’s G Suite productivity apps, the search giant said it’s helped the department same $20,000 to $30,000 on IT licensing costs. Google also said its software “accelerates evidence gathering and processing.”
The call Google to end police contracts comes as the US has been swept by protests following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed in police custody. The killing has spurred calls to defund police departments across the country.
“We’re disappointed to know that Google is still selling to police forces, and advertises its connection with police forces as somehow progressive, and seeks more expansive sales rather than severing ties with police and joining the millions who want to defang and defund these institutions,” the letter reads. “Why help the institutions responsible for the knee on George Floyd’s neck to be more effective organizationally?”
In a statement, Google said it has policies that guide how it deploys artificial intelligence, but said it won’t stop selling its technology to law enforcement.
This isn’t the first time Google employees have protested against the company’s work with military and law enforcement. Two years ago, workers at the search giant protested Google’s contract with the Pentagon for Project Maven, an initiative that uses artificial intelligence to improve analysis of drone footage. Thousands of workers signed a petition opposing the contract, and a handful of employees resigned in protest.
The letter about police contracts criticizes Google’s business dealings while it publicly supports the Black Lives Matter movement.
Google last week announced a $175 million package to support black business owners, startup founders and developers. Days after Floyd’s killing, Google displayed a black ribbon on its homepage, with the caption: “We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it.” In a tweet announcing the homepage tweak, Pichai said the company stands with the Black community.
“We have a long way to go to address the full legacy of racism but to begin with — we should not be in the business of profiting from racist policing,” Monday’s letter to Pichai says. “We should not be in the business of criminalizing Black existence while we chant Black Lives Matter.”
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