Google Workers Resign Over Project Maven AI Project For US Defense Department

MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle

Google, however, has offered comment on Project Maven saying, "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".

"The DoD contracts under consideration by Google, and similar contracts already in place at Microsoft and Amazon, signal a unsafe alliance between the private tech industry, now in possession of vast quantities of sensitive personal data collected from people across the globe, and one country's military", the letter states.

In the intervening months, employees say, nothing has changed, prompting 4,000 Google employees to sign an internal petition opposing the partnership, and about a dozen to resign in protest.

The more than 400 academics from around the world who signed an open letter published yesterday are supporting Google employees against Project Maven. And now word is that Google employees are quitting the company to protest against its involvement in Project Maven. Coinciding with a Defense Department article from 2017, "The project's first task involves developing and integrating computer-vision algorithms needed to help military and civilian analysts encumbered by the sheer volume of full-motion video data that DoD collects every day in support of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations." . The company's motto "Don't Be Evil" famously embraces this responsibility.


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. "We can no longer ignore our industry's and our technologies' harmful biases, large-scale breaches of trust, and lack of ethical safeguards", the petition reads.

Google is also believed to be a lead bidder on a cloud computing contract for the Pentagon.

Executives have not backed down, however, defending their work on Maven. 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. "While Google regularly decides the future of technology without democratic public engagement, its entry into military technologies casts the problems of private control of information infrastructure into high relief".

It claimed that Google's technology may soon help bolster USA projects for "authorizing autonomous drones to kill automatically, without human supervision or meaningful human control". Drones are an increasingly important strategic tool, while the US Loyal Wingman programme is working towards autonomous jet fighters.

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