Some shareholders (Including OMIs) flag Alphabet setting up new data centres in India

Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation

By Dia Rekhi, Originally Published by the Economic Times

Some shareholders of Google parent Alphabet said they were concerned by the company’s plans to expand data center operations in locations including India which they claimed were reported by the US State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices to present significant human rights violations.

“These include… Delhi, India where the government frequently orders internet shutdowns and where Google’s Transparency report showed a 69% increase in government requests for user data in 2019 and an additional 50% by 2021,” the proposal reviewed by ET said.

Proposal Number 10, titled ‘Stockholder proposal regarding human rights assessment of data center siting’ also mentioned that shareholders have requested the Board of Directors to commission a report assessing the siting of Google Cloud Data Centers in countries of ‘significant human rights concern’ which includes India.

It said the report should be published on the company’s website within six months of the 2023 shareholders meeting which is to be held on June 2.

Other regions include Jakarta, Indonesia where the proposal said government opponents face prison for insulting the president or government officials online and Doha, Qatar where it said security forces interrogate social media users for tweets critical of government officials. It added that of particular concern is the plan to locate a Google Cloud Data Center in Saudi Arabia.

The proposal has been filed by SumofUS, a global non-profit advocacy organisation and an online community, which has now been renamed Eko. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate-United States Province is a co-filer of this proposal along with others.

It said that the company’s decisions of siting cloud data centers in ‘human rights hot spots’ occur behind closed doors, without the promised transparency.

It said that the company’s decisions of siting cloud data centers in ‘human rights hot spots’ occur behind closed doors, without the promised transparency.

Alphabet on its part said that its company’s enduring commitment to human rights is reflected in its ‘robust management and governance structures’ regarding risks related to human rights.

“Our existing extensive disclosures provide transparency on our approach to evaluating and managing human rights-related risks, including in the context of siting data centers. Therefore, our Board believes the additional report requested by this proposal would not provide additional useful information to our stockholders and recommends a vote AGAINST this proposal,” the company said in its opposing statement.

Alphabet added that when deciding where to locate data centers, the company considers a number of factors, including human rights and security, as well as how to optimize the company’s overall data infrastructure so as to provide a performance, reliability, and sustainability, “and we undertake human rights due diligence when expanding data center operations into new locations.”