NYACT Statement posted on Mondoweiss, 16 April 2013

According to a BBC News report, on April 13, 2013 Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, Incorporated, told a reporter from the UK’s Guardian newspaper that drone technology should be regulated, citing privacy and security concerns.

What Schmidt failed to mention in the interview is that Google is currently hosting classes for a new applied science and technology campus being planned for New York City’s Roosevelt Island. Cornell NYC Tech is a collaboration between Cornell University and one of Israel’s largest weapons research and development institutes, The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. This collaboration will cost New York taxpayers at least $100 million, and was largely conceived without public oversight.

The Technion plays a key role in developing drones and other technologies used by the Israeli military to enforce the Israeli occupation of Palestine and monitor the Separation Wall, both of which are illegal under international law. The Technion is therefore complicit in war crimes against the Palestinian people. Affiliation with and support of the Technion makes any institution or company, including Google and Cornell, likewise complicit in those crimes.

The worldwide deployment of drones is expanding dramatically: the U.S. military has recently used drones in attacks waged in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, killing hundreds of innocent people and sparking outrage against the United States. Furthermore, U.S. law enforcement and security agencies have been given a green light to deploy drone technology internally. Just this past week, two Israeli drones violated Lebanon’s airspace. With more money being pumped into weapons research, drone technology has become more advanced, with drones themselves getting smaller, more intricate, and more deadly. The rationale being supplied for this increasing and broader use of drones is that they are controlled remotely and thus decrease the likelihood of military/police casualties. It is, however, also important to consider the lives and rights of people who are actually being targeted by drones.

Although Eric Schmidt’s call for regulation of drone technology is a welcome admission of its inherent danger, he cleverly directs his criticisms only against the private use of drones. Governments, however, must also be scrutinized and restricted in their use of drones, whether for military deployment or police surveillance purposes. By ignoring Technion’s involvement in drones development, Schmidt has evaded Google’s complicity in the Israel Defense Forces’ deployment of drones in the occupied Palestinian territories.

New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership therefore asks that Eric Schmidt admit the full scope of Google’s relationship to drone technology through the company’s association with Technion, and that he direct his criticisms of drone technology towards military as well as private use. Anything less is a show of hypocrisy that no one should take seriously, much less users and customers of Google.