Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Google will no longer develop new artificial intelligence tools to help oil and gas companies extract crude, the company announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The tech giant is breaking away from Microsoft and Amazon, both of which have also developed AI in recent years to expedite oil production and make services more efficient for companies like Chevron and GE Oil & Gas. Google's 2018 contract with Total was in place as of February, a Total spokesperson confirmed to Axios at the time.

What they're saying: Google Cloud "will not, for instance, build custom AI/ML algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry," a Google spokesperson told Axios on Tuesday. OneZero first reported the move.

  • Yes, but: The company will honor its current contracts. The spokesperson declined to say if Google's work with Total would continue, noting that customer contracts are confidential. Total did not respond to a request for comment.
  • Google's 2019 revenue from oil and gas came out to roughly $65 million, which accounted for less than 1% of the company's total revenue in that period, the spokesperson said.
  • On renewable energy, Google says it is applying algorithms from its own data centers to improve efficiency in buildings.

Of note: Google's announcement dropped alongside a Greenpeace report released Tuesday that detailed cloud computing and AI contracts between Google, Microsoft and Amazon and oil and gas companies.

Between the lines: Microsoft and Amazon have said that working with the oil industry isn’t at odds with their climate commitments. In some cases, they're working with Big Oil on clean energy plans — like BP giving AWS renewable power.

What we're watching via Axios' Amy Harder: It's too soon to tell whether Google proves to be an outlier or an early indicator of a trend, but one thing is clear now: Environmentalists will be ramping up the pressure on other tech giants and companies in other sectors to sever ties with oil and gas firms now that they've had success with one.

Go deeper: Climate activists target Big Tech over fossil fuel work

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McCarthy: Congress is more worried about Big Tech than a year ago

Axios co-founder Mike Allen (l) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Congress is more worried about Big Tech now than it was a year ago, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Axios on Thursday during a virtual event.

What he's saying: "Their power is only getting larger, and in the world of COVID, it's getting larger because they have more influence. But I don't think they're forthcoming on a lot, I have real concerns on what Google has been doing."

Aug 28, 2020 - Technology

Microsoft and Walmart look to boost ads, e-commerce with TikTok deal

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios


As Microsoft and Walmart work together on a deal to buy TikTok's U.S. business from China's ByteDance, the giants each see fresh opportunities to expand into long-coveted markets — advertising in Microsoft's case and e-commerce for Walmart. But both companies have decidedly mixed track records in these realms.

By the numbers: Walmart currently makes less than 8% of its total revenue on e-commerce, despite pricey forays into the industry, like its $3.3 billion acquisition of the now-defunct Jet.com in 2016. Microsoft makes less than 5% of its revenue on digital ads, despite its $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016 and numerous other forays into ad-supported businesses

Aug 27, 2020 - Technology

Tech's deepening split over ads and privacy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new fight between Facebook and Apple over the mechanics of ad tech is surfacing an industry divide over user privacy and spotlighting longstanding dilemmas about the tracking and use of personal information online.

Why it matters: Privacy advocates have been sounding alarms for years about tech firms' expansive, sometimes inescapable data harvesting without making much headway in the U.S. But the game could change if major industry players start taking opposite sides.