After a dozen employees quit in protest, Google has reportedly decided not to renew its contract for military drone initiative Project Maven (GOOG, GOOGL)

After a dozen employees quit in protest, Google has reportedly decided not to renew its contract for military drone initiative Project Maven (GOOG, GOOGL)

  • The pressure to stop working with the military appears to have been too much for Google as the company reportedly will not renew a contract to build artificial intelligence tools for the Pentagon.
  • According to Gizmodo, company managers notified employees during a meeting Friday.
  • Google’s relationship with the Department of Defense triggered a civil war inside the company and cast doubt on Google’s commitment to its old motto: “Don’t be evil.” 

Facing both public pressure and unrest from within its own company, Google will not renew its contract to help build artificial intelligence tools for the military, according to a report by Gizmodo’s Kate Conger

As part of an effort called Project Maven, Google provides the Pentagon with artificial intelligence technology that speeds up the process of analyzing video images. Google’s participation in the program, which critics contend could help increase the accuracy of drone-missile strikes, sparked controversy both inside and outside of Google.

Diane Greene, CEO of Google Cloud, informed employees of the company’s decision on Friday, unnamed sources told Gizmodo. She said that the current contract expires in 2019 and won’t be renewed, according to the report. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

When the extent of Google’s participation in Project Maven became public, it ignited a civil war inside Google. A petition demanding that Google stop cooperating with the military and condemn the creation of AI weapons was signed by thousands of Google employees.

Later, about a dozen Google staffers resigned in protest. Academics and researchers also lashed out at Google for abandoning the company’s original motto: “Don’t be evil.” 

The full report from Gizmodo is worth reading, and includes details such as:

  • Diane Green told employees that Google would not choose to pursue Maven because of the controversy it has stirred
  • The decision to work on AI for the military was made during a period when Google was “more aggressively pursuing military work”
  • Google will publish new principles next week to help govern how the company handles AI in the future.
  • Internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo show that Google executives “viewed Project Maven as a golden opportunity” to win other AI contracts, including those pertaining to the military and US intelligence groups.
  • The emails show that Google and partners labored to create “machine learning algorithms” and on a “sophisticated system that could surveil entire cities.”

 

SEE ALSO: A small military contract started an internal war at Google that’s tearing the company apart

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