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Google workers oppose cloud contract with Israeli government

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Google workers oppose cloud contract with Israeli government

Google workers and Palestinian rights activists call on company to divest from involvement in cloud and artificial intelligence contract with Israeli government and military, following allegations the tech giant has retaliated against an employee for being publicly critical of the deal

Sebastian Klovig Skelton

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Published: 01 Sep 2022 10: 30

A group of Google workers and Palestinian rights activists are calling on the tech giant to end its involvement in the secretive Project Nimbus cloud computing contract, which involves the provision of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools to the Israeli government.

Calls for Google to end its involvement in the contract follow claims made by Ariel Koren, a product marketing manager at Google for Education since 2015 and member of the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), that she was pressured into resigning as retaliation for her vocal opposition to the deal. She has since accused the tech giant of “complicity in Israeli apartheid”.

Announced by the Israeli Finance Ministry in April 2021, the $1.2bn Nimbus contract is “intended to provide the government, the defense establishment and others with an all-encompassing cloud solution”, and is being jointly built by Google and Amazon.

While it is still unclear exactly how the Israeli government will use Nimbus, training documents and videos obtained by The Intercept in July 2022 indicate it would give it capabilities for facial detection, automated image categorisation, object tracking, and even sentiment analysis that claims to assess the emotional content of pictures, speech and writing.

In 2021, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International all formally accused the Israeli government of committing crimes against humanity by maintaining an apartheid system against Palestinians.

The Google employees and rights activists have said they fear how the technology will be used against Palestinians, and highlighted that Google’s own AI principles state the company will not design or deploy AI technologies that are likely to cause harm, violate international norms against surveillance, or violate international law or human rights.

According to Koren, who is Jewish, after publicly speaking out against Google’s involvement in Nimbus, she was told by her bosses in November 2021 that her role had been moved to Sao Paulo in Brazil, and that she could either commit to the relocation or lose her job.

“I was told the forced relocation was based on business priorities, however the Sao Paulo office was still working from home and there was no demonstrable need for me to be physically located in Sao Paulo, much less in the middle of a pandemic,” she wrote in an open letter published 30 August 2022, adding that while Google’s human resources team did eventually acknowledge to her that the relocation was “improper and harmful”, it continues to claim there is “no evidence of retaliation”.

In response to Computer Weekly’s questions, a Google spokesperson claimed the company’s policies clearly prohibit retaliation in the workplace: “We thoroughly investigated this employee’s claim, as we do when any concerns are raised, and as we’ve stated for many months, our investigation found there was no retaliation here. A government agency also dismissed this case when the employee filed a claim alleging she experienced retaliation.”

The spokesperson added: “We are proud that Google Cloud has been selected by the Israeli government to provide public cloud services to help digitally transform the country. The project includes making Google Cloud Platform available to government agencies for everyday workloads such as finance, healthcare, transportation and education, but it is not directed to highly sensitive or classified workloads.”

Koren, however, maintained: “Instead of listening to employees who want Google to live up to its ethical principles, Google is aggressively pursuing military contracts and stripping away the voices of its employees through a pattern of silencing and retaliation towards me and many others.”

Part of the issue, says Koren, is that Google’s management is weaponising its diversity and inclusion systems by only listening to and taking into account the views of a particular set of Jewish workers that support the actions of the Israeli government.

Koren claimed while this group of Jewish workers – self-described as “Jewglers” – was ostensibly set up to support “all Jewish people at Google”, in practice it functions “as an outlet to drive forward right-wing ideologies under the guise of promoting diversity”.

She further claimed members of this group were involved in censoring and harassing other employees with different, more critical views on the actions of the Israeli government, which included sending “aggressive messages to our Arab and Muslim colleagues”.

At one point, Koren and 626 other Google workers wrote to the company’s executives about Jewglers’ inherent bias, but received no response. Instead, Koren said Google’s management decided to meet with the Jewglers steering committee.

“In spite of widespread dissent from progressive Jews, the company was platforming Jewglers as the sole authority on Jewish identity at Google,” said Koren.

Computer Weekly contacted Google about its alleged tendency to side with pro-Israeli government Jewish voices over other, more critical perspectives – as well as the alleged conducted of the Jewglers group – but received no response on this point.

In response to Koren’s resignation, the AWU is also calling on Google executives to divest from Project Nimbus and to stop suppressing the freedom of speech and organising efforts of workers raising ethical concerns.

“It is the right of all Alphabet workers to voice our concerns and objections to projects like Nimbus and organise against them internally, completely free from fear of retaliation,” said Parul Koul, executive chair of the AWU. “Thousands of Google workers have previously organised against military contracts, like Project Maven, and we deserve to do the same now and in the future. Ariel should never have faced this retaliation and harassment. She should never have been forced into a position where resigning was her only option.”

More than 700 Google employees and 25,000 others have now signed a petition calling on the company to rescind Koren’s relocation order.

This is not the first time employees have voiced their opposition to Google’s role in Nimbus. In October 2021, for example, workers from both Google and Amazon signed a letter condemning their involvement in Project Nimbus, which they claimed “allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land”. The letter was signed by more than 90 Google and 300 Amazon workers, all signed anonymously, “because we fear retaliation”.

In May 2021, however, The Times of Israel reported that the Israeli government’s contracts with Google and Amazon bar the firms from denying services to particular government entities. The Finance Ministry said this would ensure continuity of service, even if the companies come under pressure in other jurisdictions to boycott the Israeli government.





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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are
A player shouldering the ball



(Image credit: EA)

FIFA 23 might be the best game soccer game yet for terrible sports fans, as it lets you turn off commentary that criticizes your bad playing.

Now that the early access FIFA 23 release time has passed, EA Play and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can hop into the game ahead of its full release. But as Eurogamer (opens in new tab) spotted, they’ll find a peculiar option waiting for them.

FIFA 23 includes a toggle to turn off ‘Critical Commentary’. The setting lets you silence all negative in-match comments made about your technique, so you can protect your precious ego even when you miss an open goal or commit an obvious foul. The more positive commentary won’t be affected. 

Spare your feelings

A player dribbling the ball in FIFA 23

(Image credit: EA)

The feature looks tailored toward children and new players, who don’t want to have their confidence wrecked within mere minutes of picking up the controller. But even experienced players who just so happen to be terrible at the game might benefit.

It’s not perfect, though. According to Eurogamer, the feature didn’t seem to work during a FIFA Ultimate Team Division Rivals match, with critical comments slipping through the filter. Still, who hasn’t benefited from a light grilling every now and then?

Polite commentary isn’t the only new addition in FIFA 23. It’s the first game in the series to include women’s club football teams, and fancy overhauled animations that take advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S’s new-gen hardware. EA will be hoping to end on a high, as FIFA 23 will be the last of its soccer games to release with the official FIFA licence.

If disabling critical commentary doesn’t improve your soccer skills, maybe building a squad of Marvel superheroes will. Although you might not do much better with Ted Lasso wandering the pitch.

FIFA 23 is set to fully release this Friday, September 30.

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games. 

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch
The backs of the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro



(Image credit: Google)

We’re starting to hear more and more Google Pixel 7 leaks, with the launch of the phone just a week away, but tech fans might be getting a lot of déjà vu, with the leaks all listing near-identical specs to what we heard about the Pixel 6 a year ago.

It sounds like the new phones – a successor to the Pixel 6 Pro is also expected – could be very similar to their 2021 predecessors. And a new price leak has suggested that the phones’ costs could be the same too, as a Twitter user spotted the Pixel 7 briefly listed on Amazon (before being promptly taken down, of course).

Google pixel 7 on Amazon US. $599.99.It is still showing up in search cache but the listing gives an error if you click on it. We have the B0 number to keep track of though!#teampixel pic.twitter.com/w5Z09D28YESeptember 27, 2022

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According to these listings, the Pixel 7 will cost $599 while the Pixel 7 Pro will cost $899, both of which are identical to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro starting prices. The leak doesn’t include any other region prices, but in the UK the current models cost £599 and £849, while in Australia they went for AU$999 and AU$1,299.

So it sounds like Google is planning on retaining the same prices for its new phones as it sold the old ones for, a move which doesn’t make much sense.


Analysis: same price, new world

Google’s choice to keep the same price points is a little curious when you consider that the specs leaks suggest these phones are virtually unchanged from their predecessors. You’re buying year-old tech for the same price as before.

Do bear in mind that the price of tech generally lowers over time, so you can readily pick up a cheaper Pixel 6 or 6 Pro right now, and after the launch of the new ones, the older models will very likely get even cheaper.

But there’s another key factor to consider in the price: $599 might be the same number in 2022 as it was in 2021, but with the changing global climate, like wars and flailing currencies and cost of living crises, it’s a very different amount of money.

Some people just won’t be willing to shell out the amount this year, that they may have been able to last year. But this speaks to a wider issue in consumer tech.

Google isn’t the only tech company to completely neglect the challenging global climate when pricing its gadgets: Samsung is still releasing super-pricey folding phones, and the iPhone 14 is, for some incomprehensible reason, even pricier than the iPhone 13 in some regions. 

Too few brands are actually catering to the tough economic times many are facing right now, with companies increasing the price of their premium offerings to counter rising costs, instead of just designing more affordable alternatives to flagships.

These high and rising prices suggest that companies are totally out of touch with their buyers, and don’t understand the economic hardship troubling many.

We’ll have to reach a breaking point sooner or later, either with brands finally clueing into the fact that they need to release cheaper phones, or with customers voting with their wallets by sticking to second-hand or refurbished devices. But until then, you can buy the best cheap phones to show that cost is important to you.

Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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