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Saudi Google Cloud center: shareholder vote can prevent storm of human rights abuses

Access Now and human rights organizations from across the globe are urging Alphabet shareholders to use their vote at the Annual General Meeting on June 1 to ensure that the company upholds basic human rights principles and commitments before it proceeds with its cloud region plan in Saudi Arabia — a country with a woeful record of surveillance, repression, and egregious human rights abuses. 

“Alphabet shareholders will be jeopardizing the safety and security of millions of people if they don’t vote for human rights at the AGM,” said Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy Manager at Access Now. “Building a Google Cloud data center in a country like Saudi Arabia — where surveillance, persecution, and repression rule — is dangerous, but it can be stopped today before real-life harm is done.”

Civil society has rung the alarm bells over Google’s plans to expand into Saudi Arabia since the company announced them in January 2021. Most recently, ahead of Alphabet’s AGM, SumOfUs, a global advocacy group,  submitted a shareholder proposal asking the Alphabet Board of Directors to commission a human rights assessment of the company’s plans to locate cloud centers in countries with poor human rights records — such as Saudi Arabia. However, in a dangerous move for the rights of millions, Alphabet is advising shareholders to vote against the proposal, stating that the company already discloses its approach to evaluating human rights risks. This advice must be ignored as no details on how the company has evaluated human rights risks for this plan have been disclosed, and shareholders should seize this opportunity to take a stand for human rights.

“Companies cannot continue to put profits before human rights,” said Laura Okkonen, Investor Advocate at Access Now. “Big business doesn’t exist in parallel to society, it is part of it — and it needs to be held accountable. Real change comes when we muster it from all sides, including from Alphabet’s shareholders who must use their power to help safeguard the privacy and security of people in Saudi Arabia and beyond.”

Read the full letter.