Google faces rebellion over military AI projects


Project Maven is seeking to use machine learning and computer vision techniques to improve the gathering of battlefield intelligence.

Google said the tech would not be used to kill people, but employees are outraged that Google would involve itself in military operations.

In addition to those who resigned, there are also almost 4,000 employees who have signed an internal petition asking Google to immediately cancel their contract and institute a policy on future military work. 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.

Several Google employees have resigned in protest over the company's involvement in a United States military pilot programme known as Project Maven, Gizmodo reported.

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The world of academia has also raised concerns over Google's work with the Pentagon. It is thought to be one of the lead contenders for another significant Pentagon cloud computing contract, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, better known as JEDI, that is now up for bids. When the story first broke, it told Gizmodo: "The technology flags images for human review and is for non-offensive uses only. We're actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies".

However members of the tech industry are anxious.

Other companies such as IBM and Amazon have refused to work with the Department of Defense, so it's interesting that Google is failing to take its employees' concerns onboard.

Researchers who are critical of Google also posted an open letter worrying about Google providing the Pentagon with "open source "deep learning" technology" along with engineering expertise.

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"We wholeheartedly support [employees'] demand that Google terminate its contract with the DoD, and that Google and its parent company Alphabet commit not to develop military technologies and not to use the personal data that they collect for military purposes", the letter states. "They also signal a failure to engage with global civil society and diplomatic institutions that have already highlighted the ethical stakes of these technologies".

Around a dozen employees at Google have apparently quit their jobs in protest over Project Maven.

Project Maven was started in April of 2017 by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, who started an Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team.

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