More than 650 Google workers have signed a petition calling on senior management for company-wide policies and protections, in the wake of the US Supreme Court ruling on Roe v Wade.

The petition was circulated by the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), the Guardian reported, and makes a number of ambitious demands of Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai; head of human resources Fiona Cicconi, and the VP of ads Jerry Dischler.

It should be noted that Alphabet has already carried out certain measures in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

Last month Google said it would automatically delete Android smartphone users’ location history when they visit locations such as abortion clinics.

The US Supreme Court. Image credit: US Supreme Court

Roe v Wade

At the same time Google also said it would close a loophole that allowed apps on a phone to gather information about other apps installed on the device, which has led to sensitive data on individuals being put up for sale by data aggregators.

The firm has also previously said Google staff can relocate out of US states pursuing abortion bans. The firm said staff could apply for work relocation without explaining why.

The revocation of the 1973 Roe v Wade decision in June this year opened the way for restrictive abortion laws in many US states, and tech companies and campaigners fear the intimate personal data stored on smartphones could be used to help prosecute those who contravene the new measures.

Abortion rights activists and privacy experts are also concerned that people’s digital communications, location data, period app tracking information, or other private data will be used against them to criminalise abortion.

Facebook has already been dragged into the issue earlier this month, when it provided US police with a teenager’s private chats, in case about an abortion carried out at home.

Meta said it had not informed about the abortion in the warrant, and it compiled with a lawful court order.

Google staff demands

So what are Google staff asking for?

According to the Guardian, the Google staff are making three demands of senior management.

Firstly they asked that the company extend access to reproductive healthcare benefits already offered to full-time employees to temporary and contract workers.

Secondly, the staff asked Google to stop any and all political lobbying of politicians or organisations “because these politicians were responsible for appointing the supreme court justices who overturned Roe v Wade and continue to infringe on other human rights issues”.

And finally the staff demanded Google stop storing health-related data that could later be used to criminalise users and address the disinformation and misinformation found in search results.

A Google spokesperson told the Guardian the company had nothing to add, but pointed the newspaper to links indicating how it planned to support employees in the wake of the US supreme court’s decision on abortion rights.

Ambitious demands

“It is a healthcare problem,” Alejandra Beatty, a technical program manager at Google-owned Verily and an AWU steward was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

“That is a concern for labour,” said Beatty. “It is a labour right. So that is where we are focusing the conversation on: this is healthcare necessary for all employees and we all should have it.”

The union’s demands are lofty, she admits.

For instance, workers in the union discussed asking that Google only donate to certain politicians rather than stop all of its lobbying efforts. But the stakes are too high to go in softly, Beatty reportedly said.

“We’re trying to make the point that the whole entire system is broken and democracy needs to be returned to the people, to the citizens,” she said. “Companies should not be involved in this space and until there is a better system where that undue influence is not there, there’s just no way to [lobby politicians] without participating in a fundamentally broken system.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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