The environment at one of the world’s largest and most valuable companies has become surprisingly political in the last year.
Twelve months ago, Google employees signed a petition protesting the company’s work with the Chinese government on a secret search engine. As of now, services like Google search and YouTube remain blocked by the so-called Great Firewall of China, a network designed to censor internet traffic.
Now employees have made headlines again, demanding that the company promises not to work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).
Here’s everything investors need to know about the news.
700 Employees Cite a “System of Abuse” Within Government Agencies
An informal Google employee group called Googlers for Human Rights made a petition public this week, pleading with the tech giant not to bid on a technology contract for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP). The petition also named the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and ICE.
According to the employees, “In working with CBP, ICE, or ORR, Google would be trading its integrity for a bit of profit and joining a shameful lineage.” The group said that there is a “system of abuse” and evidence of “malign neglect” within these agencies. The employees urge the company to avoid working directly with any of them until they “stop engaging in [alleged] human rights abuses.”
While the news may surprise some investors, there will be others who see this as part of a growing trend. Prominent tech figures and thousands of general employees in the tech industry have taken a more vocal stance in politics lately. This was evident when Google employees staged a walk out last year in protest of the company’s management of sexual misconduct claims.
A group of employees also publicly denounced a Google contract signed last year to work with the Department of Defense on artificial intelligence and drone technology.
How Will Google Respond?
Details of a pending contract with ICE or any of the agencies named have not been made public. Google is a major cloud services provider, leading the market with peers Microsoft and Amazon.
The company has maintained a stance of being politically neutral, despite allegations that it actively tried to support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.
Google is yet to make a statement on the petition, but as of pre-market, the news has not had a negative impact on stock.
Parent company, Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL), is currently lagging the market with 11.90% growth this year. Despite pushback from employees, it seems unlikely that executives would turn down any large government contract at this stage.
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