What is Project Nimbus? Google’s $1.2bn Israel Cloud Deal Explained

Google has fired 28 employees for protesting a deal called Project Nimbus, but what is it and why is is so controversial?

Google is in the news for all the wrong reasons this week, not only cementing its place as one of the biggest tech companies making layoffs, but more dramatically making headlines for firing 28 employees who protested against its $1.2bn “Project Nimbus” deal with Israel.

The dissenting employees stormed the company’s offices in New York City and Sunnyvale, California before staging a sit-in protest that was livestreamed on various platforms, including X.

Police were called to both premises and nine of the protestors, who were part of the pro-Palestine No Tech For Apartheid group, are understood to have been forcibly arrested.

It’s an even less flattering spotlight than the recent Gemini race swap AI image debacle, one which has left many people wondering what exactly is Google’s Project Nimbus and why is so controversial? Allow us to explain.

What is Project Nimbus? Google’s Controversial Deal Explained

In short, Project Nimbus is a lucrative cloud and AI computing contract Google has with the Israeli government. In its latest iteration, it’s understood to be worth as much as $1.2bn.

More specifically, Project Nimbus sees Google’s Cloud division, along with partner Amazon Web Services (AWS), providing AI and cloud computing infrastructure to the Israeli government.

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The deal is therefore perceived to support to the Israeli military by connection, and the country’s army is currently engaged in a controversial ongoing conflict against Hamas in the State of Palestine.

Even conservative estimates say that at least 30,000 lives have been claimed in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, with many people (including many Israelis) critical of Israel’s reluctance to cease its offensive.

Back to Google, and Project Nimbus itself dates back to at least 2021, based on an initial statement of protest co-authored by Google and Amazon employees published by The Guardian at the time.

What Happened at This Week’s Google Project Nimbus Protests?

Chaos, in a word.

On April 16 as part of the No Tech For Apartheid group’s “No Tech For Genocide Day of Action,” peaceful protests were staged at Google’s offices in New York and California.

The California group occupied the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, while a smaller display of solidarity is also understood to have taken place in Seattle, WA.

The group shared video footage of the protest on social media and livestreamed the sit-in

Extended footage from the live stream was subsequently also distributed.

What Has Google’s Response Been?

Google’s response was to fire the 28 employees who participated in the protests.

In a company memo, Google VP of Global Security Chris Rackow said the behavior of protestors was “unacceptable, extremely disruptive and made co-workers feel threated.”

He added that it violated multiple company policies and that the company was continuing to “investigate and take action as needed,” confirming the termination  of the contracts of “twenty-eight employees found to be involved.”

It should be noted, in fairness to Google, that not all the employees involved in the protest against Project Nimbus were fired – the disciplinary action was reserved for those who staged the physical sit-in protest in the office,

According to estimates by the NYPD, a larger group of around 50 people protested Project Nimbus on the day, with “four arrests…made for trespassing inside the Google building.”

Similarly, the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety noted that “around 80 participants” protested, but only five were detained for “criminal trespass.”

No Tech For Apartheid spokesperson Jane Chung criticized Google’s internal disciplinary actions, saying: “This flagrant act of retaliation is a clear indication that Google values its $1.2 billion contract with the genocidal Israeli government and military more than its own workers.”

Header image credit: No Tech For Apartheid via X

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Written by:
James Laird is a technology journalist with 10+ years experience working on some of the world's biggest websites. These include TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and The Sun, as well as industry-specific titles such as ITProPortal. His particular areas of interest and expertise are cyber security, VPNs and general hardware.
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