In August, not long after The Intercept revealed that Google has been working with the Chinese government to launch a censored search engine, workers at Google drafted a letter demanding that their bosses stop their plans and put in place a “concrete transparency and oversight process” to avoid being blindsided in the future by projects that conflict ethically with the employees working on them. To date, according to Buzzfeed, more than 1,400 people have signed the letter.
The letter is the latest evidence that tech workers are interrogating their roles in changing the world. Before this, organized white-collar tech workers’ biggest success occurred in June, when Google announced it wouldn’t renew its contract for the Pentagon’s Project Maven, which “involved drone video footage and low-res object identification using AI.” To the more than 3,100 Google workers who signed an open letter, this contract would not only “irreparably damage Google’s brand” but also pivot the company into “the business of war.”
Since then, more than 100 Microsoft employees protested their company’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an open letter on an internal message board, citing their belief that the company should put “children and families over profits”; Amazon employees called on their boss, Jeff Bezos, to cease selling Palantir’s face-recognition software to law enforcement, claiming that the technology would be used to “harm the most marginalized”; and, in response to a Customs and Border Protection contract, Salesforce employees who felt the deal “inhumane” organized a boycott campaign to get other companies to refuse Salesforce’s donations.