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Anti-gentrification and privacy activists celebrate Google's retreat from in Berlin

CAMPAIGNERS celebrated by saying “goodbye to Google” today after the US tech giant dropped plans to open a campus in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.

The victory came after months of high-profile campaigning against Google’s bid to open a centre for start-up companies in the German capital, with activists citing it as proof that “protest works.”

Anti-gentrification activists were among those who exposed the role of Google in pushing up rental prices in areas that the firm moves into.

San Francisco has become the world’s most expensive city, which activists blame on Google’s presence, while its Toronto campus was branded “part of a dystopian ‘smart city’ project where the urban environment surveils everyone all the time.”

Despite Berlin claiming to operate a capped-rent system, the announcement of Google’s planned arrival saw rents in Kreuzberg rocket by 71 per cent from 2016 to 2017, compared with a city-wide average rise of 20 per cent.

The Fuck Off Google campaign group warned of the potential for Google to harvest personal information and highlighted the company’s reputation for colluding with authoritarian regimes.

Last month, activists from the group squatted the disused electricity substation that Google planned to move into.

Google spokesman Ralf Brenner denied that the company had dropped its plans because of the protests, claiming that the decision was taken after discussions with many stakeholders, including community groups and local politicians.

“Of course, we are living in Berlin ourselves, so we know what’s happening with the rents,” he said.

The Occupy Berlin group invited people to join them at the power station to drink champagne to celebrate, while warning that Google’s retreat from Berlin was likely to be temporary.

The space will instead be occupied by Betterplace, an online donation platform, and Karuna, which supports children in need.


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