During the 2022 Annual General Meeting of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, the majority of shareholders voted against a civil society-backed shareholder proposal led by SumOfUs to uphold human rights principles, after Google announced plans to build a Cloud region in Saudi Arabia.
The silver lining is that the majority of independent shareholders (57.6%) voted in favor of the proposal to commission a human rights assessment of the company’s plans to establish Cloud centers in countries with poor human rights records, despite the company leadership’s recommendation to vote against it.
However, due to Alphabet’s voting system, which gives more votes to a certain class of shareholders, the 17.06% consisting of company executives, officers, and its former CEO managed to secure a majority of votes in favor of building the data center in Saudi Arabia.
We urge Google and other tech giants to prioritize human rights in their due diligence processes when planning to launch projects in different countries, particularly those with poor human rights records.
Last year, SMEX and other rights organizations called upon Google to immediately halt plans to establish a new Cloud region in Saudi Arabia until the company can publicly demonstrate how it will mitigate adverse human rights impacts.
In an open letter to Google last year, SMEX also urged Google to take a step back from establishing and operating a cloud region in Saudi Arabia, due to its poor human rights record and potential risks for users’ privacy and rights.