Google Staffers Resign Over Work on Pentagon AI Project


Many Google employees have shared their resentment for the company's involvement with Project Maven, with one internal petition asking Google to stop working with the Defense Department and not get involved with any future military contracts collecting 4,000 some signatures.

The project uses Google's TensorFlow software and image-recognition algorithms to scan through millions of hours of drone footage collected by the military and use the information to identify people and objects of interest.

But according to Gizmodo, this project has been hugely controversial within Google, with some employees saying that it jeopardises trust and goes against the company's core beliefs.

The protest is also being backed by "some 400 technology academics and researchers from around the world", who have published an open letter to Google, adds the tech site. Google is one of several companies thought to be in the running for a Pentagon cloud services contract worth more than $10 billion, known (to the dismay of Star Wars fans everywhere) as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI).

Around a dozen employees at Google have apparently quit their jobs in protest over Project Maven. "Over the last couple of months, I've been less and less impressed with the response and the way people's concerns are being treated and listened to", an anonymous employee who left told Gizmodo.

"I tried to remind myself right that Google's decisions are not my decisions". With the building controversy, it will be interesting to see if Google back down from the project, or whether we will see a mass exodus of employees.

While the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM are also working closely with the Pentagon, for example, over 30 technology companies - including Facebook and Microsoft, but not Amazon, Apple, or Alphabet - signed an Accord earlier this year stating that they would refuse to aid any government, including the U.S., in carrying out cyber attacks.

"I'm not personally responsible for everything that they do". The letter says Google should "commit to not weaponizing its technology" and terminate its contract with the DoD.

What's your take on Google working with the government to use AI for military purposes?

"But I do feel responsibility". When the story first broke, it told Gizmodo: "The technology flags images for human review and is for non-offensive uses only".

Essentially, the company is using machine-learning algorithms and AI to help the United States military assess drone footage quickly.

"We're actively engaged across the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic and also with outside experts, as we continue to develop our policies around the development and use of our machine learning technologies".

Google did not respond to a request for comment. "The strongest possible statement I could take against this was to leave".