Google announced plans late last year to establish a “cloud region” in Saudi Arabia in partnership with Saudi Aramco. Google (GOOGL) said that services offered as part of its agreement with the mammoth state oil company would allow businesses in the region to “confidently grow and scale their offerings.”
But groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the deal, citing concerns raised following the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and allegations that Saudi Arabia uses cyber tools to spy on dissidents.
“There are numerous potential human rights risks of establishing a Google Cloud region in Saudi Arabia that include violations of the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and association, non-discrimination, and due process,” the groups said in a statement on Wednesday.
The rights groups want Google to engage in “meaningful consultation with potentially affected groups, including human rights organizations from the region” as part of a review and to publish the findings. They also want Google to specify how it would handle any requests from the Saudi government that are “inconsistent with human rights norms.”
Google Cloud posted a loss last year, but its sales are growing fast. With revenue of $13 billion last year, up from nearly $9 billion in 2019, the unit now accounts for more than 20% of the company’s business.
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