May 21, 2018

Google employees are quitting over USA military 'Project Maven' tie-up

15 May 2018, 09:08 | Kevin Scott

MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle

MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle

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According to tech news site Gizmodo, many Google employees have resigned in objection over a contract between the tech giant and the Pentagon.

About a dozen Google employees resign in protest against the continuation of the company's participation in the military Project Maven.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that more than 90 academics have this week released an open letter that has called on Google to end its work on Project Maven and to support an global treaty prohibiting autonomous weapons systems.

Remember when 3,100 Google employees signed a protest letter over the use of Google's machine learning algorithms to help drones identify and track objects for the US Department of Defense?

A spokesperson said: "The technology is used to flag images for human review and is meant to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work". But some employees think people, not algorithms should be responsible for this potentially lethal job, and that Google should not participate in a military operation.

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The petition read in part "We believe that Google should not be in the business of war".

Employees who signed the petition are calling on Google to cancel Project Maven and "draft, publicise and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology". In March, several Googlers were reportedly "outraged" and "concerned" over revelations that Google was actively collaborating with the Department of Defense on drone-related surveillance technology. It has been deeply controversial within Google, with employees saying that it jeopardises trust and goes against the company's core beliefs.

Since all the employees spoke to Gizmodo anonymously, we haven't been able to independently confirm the report.

Google did say in April that input from staff relating to the project was "hugely important and beneficial" and said that policies and safeguards would be written regarding AI and military projects. Project Maven's first goal is to help the military defeat terror group ISIS and the Pentagon hopes that the AI could help to "enhance military decision-making". Whilst unofficially, we know more than the government admits, Google is bound by what the public knows officially and so, therefore, there's likely to be a lot of discussions where people are prevented from discussing things that everyone knows - something that flies in the face of Google's obsession with transparency.

"With Project Maven, Google becomes implicated in the questionable practice of targeted killings".

ZDNet has asked Google for comment and will update the story if it receives one.

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