- US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is testing a buzzy new Google Cloud product, thanks to a special exception made by Google, Business Insider has learned.
- CBP was given a free trial of Google Cloud’s new hybrid-cloud software, Anthos, according to a current Google employee who viewed the contracts, even though it’s new enough that there’s not yet a formal free-trial program for resellers to offer their customers.
- The source said an executive on the Google Cloud team “pushed through an exception” and allowed a reseller to provide CBP with a trial of Anthos for testing purposes.
- In July, CBP posted a request for information on a cloud contract, which could be worth a lot to a cloud provider like Google — and, in its filing, it disclosed that CBP was already a Google Cloud customer, as well as a user of cloud services from Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM.
- Last week, a petition was circulated and signed by over 1,300 Google employees urging the company not to provide cloud services to CBP.
- Google declined to comment.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is testing a buzzy new Google Cloud product — an expedited trial with the federal agency that was pushed through by Google executives amid employee protests.
CBP — the federal agency that enforces immigration laws at and around the border — has been given a free trial of Google Cloud’s new hybrid-cloud product Anthos, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. The test is being carried out by a third-party reseller. Using such resellers is a common practice in the public sector, as government agencies seek expert help to integrate new technologies into their IT infrastructure.
Free trials through resellers for potential Google Cloud customers are not uncommon, the source said. But because Anthos is such a new product, first released in April, Google has not yet granted resellers the ability to offer their customers a free Anthos trial.
The source said an executive on the Google Cloud team “pushed through an exception” and made sure CBP was able to start using Anthos in a testing environment, even in the absence of a formal trial program for resellers. That trial began on August 9, the source said.
Meanwhile, activist employees at the online-advertising giant have rallied to prevent Google from working with CBP. Last week, a petition was circulated and signed by more than 1,300 employees urging Google not to provide cloud services to the agency, in protest of Trump administration policies.
In a response to an internal email thread earlier this week, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian acknowledged CBP’s Anthos trial but said the company had not yet entered into a paid deal with the agency for this particular project.
Two current Google employees said they viewed Kurian’s email, which was sent to an email group open to all Google engineers called “eng-misc,” as a way to calm the nerves of those concerned about the potential contract. Kurian said in his comments that the free trial would be used by CBP for “IT services,” but that was seen by those employees as an apparent attempt to downplay the possibility of its services being used for more controversial aspects of the agency, including its deportation efforts.
This also comes as CBP begins to explore the possibility of moving more of its IT infrastructure to the cloud, in what could be a lucrative contract. In July, CBP filed a public request for information from cloud vendors on the scale and scope of such a project, ahead of any formal bidding process — and, in that request, the agency disclosed that it was already using cloud services from Google, as well as from Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle.
A Google spokesperson declined to comment to Business Insider.
The hybrid cloud
Google, along with the cloud-industry leaders Amazon and Microsoft, would likely be the atop CBP’s short list for cloud-service providers in any cloud project.
Interestingly, Amazon and Microsoft both offer hybrid-cloud solutions, which allow customers to run their applications across both the cloud and their own data centers.
But neither offer what Google Cloud’s Anthos is capable of — a hybrid solution that allows customers to use other clouds besides Google’s own. If such functionality is critical for CBP, it might decide to extend this trial period into a paid relationship. It could also make Google more attractive as a partner for CBP as it modernizes its IT infrastructure further.
Read more: Hundreds of Googlers are urging the company not to bid on a contract with the US Customs and Border Protection that they say would facilitate ‘human rights abuses’
Google has been called unpatriotic
Conservative-leaning critics have pilloried Google for not embracing opportunities to work with federal agencies. Peter Thiel, a Facebook board member and outspoken Trump supporter, said in July that Google was not a patriotic company because it scrapped an artificial-intelligence project with the Pentagon after employee protests.
Thiel has called on the FBI and CIA to investigate Google for its decision to explore the possibility of resuming operations in China while shying away from work with the US military.
Meanwhile, concerns over tech companies engaging with US immigration agencies have not been limited to Google.
On Monday, filings revealed that Palantir, a data-analytics company cofounded by Thiel, has secured a $49 million three-year contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Earlier this year, it was reported that Palantir’s products were indeed used to aid the agency in its detention and deportation efforts, a claim from which the firm had tried to distance itself. Last week, protests took place outside Palantir’s Palo Alto, California, offices, calling on the company to end its contracts with ICE.
Similarly, employees at Salesforce have called on co-CEO Marc Benioff to cut ties with CBP. Though the philanthropic-minded exec said he “wrestled” with the decision, the Salesforce contract with CBP remains in place today.
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