The walkouts among thousands of employees last Thursday to protest the company’s mishandling of sexual harassment claims reflect what protestors call depraved indifference by management to address what they assert is rampant sexism, racism, unethical government contracts, and a general lack of transparency — and this list reflects the growing frustration being felt both inside and outside the company.
Google has not denied the allegations in the article. Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Larry Page, a co-founder of Google and CEO of its parent company, Alphabet, apologized in an email to company employees last week and said that the company has fired another 48 Google employees over sexual harassment claims in the past two years, but that none of those employees received payouts.
In April, more than 3,000 Google employees protested the company’s military contract with the Pentagon — known as Project Maven — which involved technology to analyze drone video footage that could potentially identify and kill human targets.
About a dozen engineers resigned over what they viewed as an unethical use of artificial intelligence, prompting Google to let the contract expire in June and leading executives to promise that they would never use AI technology to harm others or cause human suffering.
A few months later, an investigation by the Intercept revealed that Google is secretly working on another questionable project: a censored search engine for Chinese officials in Beijing.
The search engine under development, known as Project Dragonfly, is designed to hide search results that China’s authoritarian government wants to suppress, such as information about democracy, free speech, peaceful protest, and human rights, the Intercept reported.
In addition to hiding search results that the Chinese government wants to suppress, Google’s new search engine would also track a user’s location and would share an individual’s search history with a Chinese partner, who would have “unilateral access” to the data. This includes access to a user’s telephone number, according to an employee memo obtained last week by the Intercept.
After the news of Dragonfly leaked in August, more than 1,400 Google employees signed a letter demanding more transparency and accountability about the project’s potential impact on human rights. The controversy has reportedly prompted at least five Google employees to quit in protest.
Google executives have defended the Dragonfly project and tried to downplay concerns, saying that it was merely in the exploratory stages.
But then Google planned to bid on another Pentagon contract, known as JEDI, which involved building cloud storage for military data. There are few public details about what else the $10 billion project would entail. But one thing was clear: The project would involve using artificial intelligence to make the US military a lot deadlier.
Earlier this month, facing mounting internal pressure, Google announced that it would not submit a bid for the contract. Then last week, Google employees heard more unpleasant news: that the company had secretly given million-dollar exit packages to executives accused of sexual harassment.
For starters, there is the non-transparent process of Google’s auction overbidding. This AdWords “enhancement” gives the Google system the option to double a keyword’s maximum cost-per-click bid when it determines competition is fierce. The bid doubling is opaque and tends to contradict the more visible Google metrics in AdWords that show the current cost to show up both on the “1st Page” of Google search results and at the “Top of the 1st Page.” In other words, Gooogle can double advertisers’ cost-per-click without disclosing why.
The abandonment of underperforming products by Google has made orphans of so many users, the laws of brand loyalty have seemingly been stood on their head. A short list of products that have been abruptly discontinued by Google since 2006 includes Google Reader, Google Talk, Google Health, Google Knol, Google Insights for Search, Google Buzz, and the beatdown goes on.
- An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees
- A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity
- A public report on the number of sexual harassment complaints made against Google employees and the outcomes of those claims
- The creation of a clear process for employees to report sexual misconduct safely and anonymously
- To have the chief diversity officer answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to Alphabet’s board of directors, and to appoint an employee representative to the board