Google investors fear Saudi data centre could be used to target critics
Google's investors are concerned about a controversial project to establish a cloud facility in Saudi Arabia, warning that it could allow Riyadh to spy on activists, journalists, and critics of the regime.
The concerns centre around a data centre that Google is developing alongside Aramco, Saudi Arabia's state oil company, according to The New York Post.
The tech giant said of the deal, announced in December, that it intends to: "Deploy and operate a Cloud region in Saudi Arabia, while a local strategic reseller, sponsored by Aramco, will offer cloud services to customers, with a particular focus on businesses in the Kingdom.”
Google shareholders warn Cloud data in Saudi Arabia could be used for spying https://t.co/XtCUptaIsO— Don Lichterman (SCA) (@DonELichterman) April 25, 2022
The investors are reportedly concerned that the Saudi government could use this data to monitor and target journalists, activists, and other perceived critics.
Rewan Al-Haddad, the campaign director for SumofUs - a global consumer group that aims to curb the power of big corporations - told The New York Post she was concerned Riyadh "will stop at no end to snuff out anyone who dares challenge their autocratic rule and human rights abuses".
Saudi Arabia is known for stamping out dissent within the country and imposing harsh punishments on those it deems as a threat.
The most high-profile case was the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, a journalist killed by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
In 2012, Saudi authorities arrested blogger and human rights activist Riad Badawi on charges of 'insulting Islam', and sentenced him to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a fine, and a 10-year travel ban when his sentence concluded.
He was released from prison earlier this year but is still barred from leaving the country to join his family in Canada.
Multiple rights groups, including Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Human Rights Watch, had called on Google to halt the development of its Cloud in Saudi Arabia over the country's poor human rights record in 2021.
"Saudi Arabia has a dismal human rights record, including digital surveillance of dissidents, and is an unsafe country to host the Google Cloud Platform," said Rasha Abdul Rahim, Director of Amnesty Tech as quoted in a statement from May 2021.
The New Arab has approached Google for comment.