Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Say NO to Google

Akram Abunahla | 10-10-2021

google headquarters
Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/AP

Have you checked your Gmail inbox today? What about your photos? Are they backed up to Google Photos? I am sure you also use Google Docs to create documents and  collaborate with your friends on some projects. Google is everywhere: in the websites you visit; at the core of Android-powered devices; and all over the web through the world’s most-used search engine, its web browser, Google Chrome, and the world’s most-used set of productivity cloud tools.

Google Services for Everyone —Except in Palestine

Google services are supposedly accessible by everyone, wherever they may be. Thanks to cloud computing, all you need to do is open your web browser and sign in to your Google account to access a wide range of productivity tools.

But did you know that while Google services are available in Palestine, none of its paid services are available here? You will simply be greeted with the message, “Not available in your country.”  If you are using Google Drive and want to purchase extra storage, you cannot do that in Palestine. If you own an Android device, you will not be able to purchase apps for that functionality. Google Music is not available in Palestine either. The list goes on and on.

A computer geek denied tech tools

I am a computer geek and to me, software and the latest gadgets are my whole world. I still remember the launch of one of the Android-powered flagship devices, which cost $1,000 at the time. The device came bundled with Google for, as we all  know,  this tech giant is behind the operating system, so that is to be expected. The experience was smooth and user-friendly until I found out, by accident, that I was not eligible to subscribe to one of the paid plans of Google Drive.

The error message I received was vague and unclear, so I contacted support, only to find that Google paid services are not available in my country.

Google support provided me with a link containing details about their paid services and a list of countries in which they are available for purchase. I headed to the link, and there was no Palestine there. Contact support and you’ll get a vague statement that they hope to launch soon in Palestine.

Scrolling up and down over the list of countries where you can get paid services, I was shocked to see Israel listed. Come on! We live on the same piece of land, and Israel is just a few miles away. The Israelis have the convenience of accessing all Google services, both free and paid, with not a single limitation. They can buy Drive storage or Android apps and subscribe to Google Music to enjoy over 70 million songs. Yet we are denied.

A geek turned freedom fighter

My frustration at spending a fortune on a flagship device, only to be limited to using the preinstalled free apps, ignited the spark that led to who I am now, a privacy advocate and a freedom fighter. I decided to learn more about Google and its questionable, even discriminating practices against us Palestinians. That was just the start of my journey.

As I researched further, I found out that the overarching value that underlies Google is its access to user data. Google harvests user data to create online profiles and then serves users with targeted ads, thus, invading users’ privacy. In fact, privacy-focused users all over the world are unhappy with Google’s anti-privacy practices. Some call it the cancer of the Internet, with users’ data being to Google what sugar is to cancerous cells.

This realization has provoked me to take action against a company that discriminates against my own people and violates and invades my privacy online. Now I am busy deGoogling my system, but because Google is at the heart of the operating syste,, this is both challenging and time-consuming.

Google supports the surveillance state

In recently circulated news, Google, along with Amazon is said to have signed a more than  $1 billion agreement with the Israeli government to provide the state of Apartheid with cloud services to help the Israeli government migrate their systems to the cloud. This is the very same system that operates and controls the gates, cameras and barriers that add to the Palestinians’ daily suffering.

Not only has Google discriminated against my country, but it has also gone a step further by partnering with the militarised Israeli state, helping the Israeli occupation to develop their infrastructure that will add to our misery and suffering. Do Google engineers and software developers even know that their work is being used to support the  daily humiliations at checkpoints and the trauma of endless surveillance, frequent drone attacks and widespread house demolitions?

Call  to action

I call on all people of conscience who are working for Google or are users of Google services to please join our protest. If you do not agree with the discriminatory approach of Google, please add your voice to the call for change.

I also urge the privacy-focused community to join us in our protest, for now they have another reason to say NO to Google. Join us in the demand that Google let ordinary citizens to maintain their privacy as they work, study and play.

And please support our call to stop Google from collaborating with Israel to support and boost its military infrastructure, which is being deployed in breach of international law to maintain Israel’s illegal occupation.

 

Posted: October 10, 2021

Mentor: Yasmin Alam


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