Google’s war on its own employees continues as a protest on the company’s secret cloud computing contract with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enters the public focus. In newly uncovered documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, site workers are caught between doing unethical work that is complicit with the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies and standing up to their big tech masters for mingling with the state’s detainment project.
The two-year contract was signed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2017, a separate branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has allowed the use of Google’s services to manage the government’s requested data systems for the price of $748,844, according to the cited estimates from Media Post. Once the contract finally made the media rounds, Google’s employees released a lengthy Medium post with an internal petition of over a thousand opposing their executives for having sided with a government “perpetuating a system of abuse and malign neglect” at the border.
Given this context of moral severity, it’s almost incredible how the contract was only discovered by its employees in recent days. This is likely due to the fact the document makes no direct mention of Google at all, instead only referring to its lower Apigee Edge Private Cloud division which handles business over these API systems, not the divisions frequent in the petition. The contract also keeps to elusive references for the government. USCIS has far less public objection than agencies like the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the overall CBP and DHS, where one inspects asylum claims and the other sanctions detainment against these asylum seekers, but their recent relationship has been described a symbiotic necessity.
According to The Verge, the government has claimed immigration numbers and processing backlogs have increased under the watch of the Trump administration, leading to further accusations USCIS is working closely with ICE to increase deportation efforts, likely for the sake of bureaucratic ease and means-testing cases. “USCIS field offices will no longer consider non-military requests for deferred action, to instead focus agency resources on faithfully administering our nation’s lawful immigration system,” an agency spokesperson confirmed to The Washington Examiner. “I’d like to underscore that this does not mean the end of deferred action. Instead, USCIS is deferring to ICE.”
In short, it’s effectively carte blanche for the deportation task force, simplified processing for their bureaucrats, easy money for Google’s executives and a hard time to have empathy as a Google employee. “These abuses are illegal under international human rights law, and immoral by any standard,” the petition reads, citing the Trump administration’s record on the indefinite family separation policies, the lack of “safe and sanitary” conditions which are protected as human rights for even the detained and, of course, the recent number of avoidable deaths of men, women and children in immigration custody from diseases like the flu, pneumonia and neglected resources causing dehydration.
Given President Trump’s own record as an anti-vaxxer before and during the presidential election, it shouldn’t come as a surprise his rhetoric of child abuse apologia turned into a policy reality and big business are willing to help out through big government contracts. The employees say continuing future bids on the contract will only be “streamlining CBP’s infrastructure and facilitating its human rights abuses” through their system. “History is clear,” the petition, “the time to say NO is now. We refuse to be complicit. It is unconscionable that Google, or any other tech company, would support agencies engaged in caging and torturing vulnerable people in an infrastructure for mass atrocity. And we are not alone — the world is watching.”
Where defenders of the president could just laugh this off as another online slacktivism petition from the politically biased big tech establishment, Google’s staff are instead a uniquely unified front against their own institution. In recent history, their collective actions resulted in the thousands of employees and associates organizing a walkout protest against executives accused of sexual harassment, the removal of the company’s predatory practice on “forced arbitration”, the end of payments to these accused sexual offenders and the destruction of contracted involvement with AI drone programs the likes of Project Maven, which has since shifted over to Amazon.
This resistance became so bad, it forced Google to fire and demote key staffers responsible for shaming the company for exposing its own actions. There is simply no denying their success is within the world’s public view, turning the discourse on the very same chicken-hawks who will decry big tech corruption when it hurts conservative interests while defending those pulling strings and swapping benjamins when it serves their socio-political ends. Neither the government or company have disclosed the nature of the service, and it’s likely to stay this way until workers, consumers, and tech skeptics follow the lead of the staff, demanding accountability both at the border and how the conduct is tracked and to just follow their abandoned motto: “Don’t be evil”.