Google employees quit in protest against cooperation with the Pentagon

Google employees quit in protest against cooperation with the Pentagon

Project Maven aims to develop AI that can spot humans and objects in vast amounts of video captured by military drones. It means that a drone would be able to pick out a known terrorist in a crowd and centre any attack on that area.

A dozen Google employees have chosen to resign instead of taking part in a Pentagon project that harnesses the company's artificial intelligence know-how for military purposes.

The employees say executives have become less transparent to the workforce about controversial business decisions, and appear less interested in listening to objections.

Google is helping the Defense Department implement machine learning to classify images gathered by drones.

Once Google promoted an open culture that encouraged employees to challenge and debate product decisions. The difference may be slight, but for some Google employees the change precipitated a shift in Google's overall attitude, particularly when it came to ethical concerns. An internal petition called on Google CEO Sundar Pichai to cancel Project Maven and "d$3 raft, publicize, and impose a clear policy declaring that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology." .

After around 3,000 Google employees rebelled against Google's involvement in the Pentagon's Project Maven AI program, some employees have chose to quit in protest, according to a report.

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The pressure from employees, however, seem to do little in swaying Google's intent in continuing its work on Project Maven and also being the lead contender for another Pentagon cloud computing contract called Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI).

"At some point, I realised I could not in good faith recommend joining Google, knowing what I knew". In the case of Project Maven, the results could be lethal for the company's users, who are located all around the globe. "But I do feel responsibility when I see something that I should escalate it", another resigning employee told Gizmodo.

This week more than 200 professors, scientists, and academics signed an open letter to protest Google's participation in Project Maven alleging that the technology could be weaponized.

"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. Members of the group are the voice of numerous universities across the world and have urged Google's top management to pay heed to their employees. The workers don't want to take part in drone warfare, even though their employer is not bothered by the matter.

Google has gone on the record saying that its work to improve machines' ability to recognize objects is not for offensive uses, but published documents show a "murkier" picture, the EFF's Cindy Cohn and Peter Eckersley said in an online post last month. 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.

"Actions speak louder than words, and that's a standard I hold myself to as well", a resigning employee said. "I was not happy, but the strongest possible statement I could make against it, was to leave", - commented the decision of one of the departed employees.

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