More than 600 Google employees have sent a petition to their bosses at parent company Alphabet this week demanding some changes in corporate policy. Most of the early headlines that showed up covering the story focused on the workers’ demands for additional resources covering abortions. That part was wholly predictable, given the entrenched liberal culture inside of the company. Of course, the demands were rather crazy for two reasons. First, within hours of Roe being overturned, the company announced that it would be paying for abortion services for its workers, along with travel costs if they work in a state where the procedure winds up being banned and pretty much anything else associated with it. But the petition seeks to have those benefits extended to contractors and even vendors who visit the premises. That’s pretty much unheard of in the business world. Of course, they don’t want full healthcare benefits for all of those other workers. Only abortion-related benefits.
The really strange part of the employees’ demands, however, was of a more technical nature. They want Google to automatically delete any search history information related to “abortion-related locations.” They are also demanding that Google Maps delete all information about “fake” abortion centers, by which they mean crisis pregnancy centers. This raises an obvious question. How long do you need to work at a massively invasive company like Google before you suddenly become concerned over people’s data privacy? (NPR)
About 650 Google workers have signed a petition asking the company to protect users’ abortion-related location data and search history.
The move comes over concerns that law enforcement agencies will seek such data from Google to prosecute abortion seekers.
Workers sent the petition Wednesday to Google-parent Alphabet’s top executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai. Most of the workers belong to the Alphabet Workers’ Union, according to Bambi Okugawa, a spokesperson for the group.
The petition claims that Google and Alphabet need to meet these demands if they want to “present the face of being a compassionate company and an ally for people that need reproductive health care or gender-affirming health care.” You don’t need Google’s language translation function to decipher what that means. They aren’t concerned with any other sorts of healthcare issues or benefits. Only abortions and transgender surgery services, puberty blockers, etc. In fact, by demanding that the locations of crisis pregnancy centers be deleted from Google Maps, they’re showing that they have no concerns for women seeking maternity help who may want to actually bring a child into the world, either to raise themselves or give to adoptive parents.
Getting back to the data privacy angle, this is truly a remarkably tone-deaf move on the part of the Alphabet Workers’ Union, whose members organized the petition drive. These people all draw a paycheck from a company that is so globally renowned for stealing and selling its users’ data that entire companies and ad campaigns have been launched to help people prevent themselves from being spied on specifically by Google.
The other thing that makes this petition rather bizarre is quite similar to the fact that Google began offering abortion-related travel and other services before anyone asked them to. More than a month ago, Google put out a statement to its workers saying that they had already started automatically deleting “information about users who visit abortion clinics or other locations that could lead to legal problems.” They just didn’t run a big public campaign talking about it. It’s unclear whether that solely meant location data or search data as well, but they were obviously taking these actions without anyone needing to gather signatures for a petition. Don’t these people read their own company memos?
One thing that Google can’t avoid, however, is compliance with law enforcement when they are presented with a search warrant seeking users’ search history or location data. I’m sure the workers would love to see them try (assuming the warrant only involves abortion services), but that’s a good way to have your company shut down.
Here’s the DuckDuckGo advertisement I mentioned above, called “watching you.” Google has been “watching” everyone since it’s existed. Welcome to the party, Google workers. Enjoy the creepiness.