A former Google employee who quit the firm in protest last year has launched a new project to make tech whistleblowing easier. Jack Poulson left his role at the giant over its now-ditched plans to create a censorship AI platform for the Chinese government. Now, Poulson is hoping his latest creation will allow tech staff to raise ethical questions about their employers, without having to risk their livelihoods.
Tech Inquiry aims to “democratize critical inquiry into the tech industry,” according to its website. Poulson and other members will assist in areas when tech and rights meet, such as AI, data collection, surveillance and censorship. They will also counsel government officials, journalists and others seeking advice on difficult and morally challenging fields that tech is shaping each day.
Poulson, whose stand against Google’s planned “Dragonfly” project made headlines globally, recently penned an op-ed for the New York Times in which he called himself a “conscientious objector” to his former paymaster.
“Complaints from a single rank-and-file engineer aren’t going to lead a company to act against its significant financial interests,” wrote Poulson. “But history shows that dissenters — aided by courts or the court of public opinion — can sometimes make a difference.”
Poulson’s launch comes at a time of increased friction between Silicon Valley’s largest players and their staff. Today Amazon workers have demanded the company end its relationship with the U.S. government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). The firm has responded that the ultimate decision will be down to the state. Facebook employees have also taken a series of stands against the social media platform’s attitudes to censorship and politics lately.
“I believe tech workers need informed consent about when their work may lead to loss of life or suppression of human rights or freedoms,” Poulson told the Guardian newspaper. He hopes Tech Inquiry will aid those willing to speak out, without endangering their careers.