Google Employees are leaving Because of Disputable Pentagon Contract

According to tech news site Gizmodo, many Google employees have resigned in objection over a contract between the tech giant and the Pentagon.

In March, Gizmodo disclosed that Google was working with the Defense Department to improve AI examining drone footage as part of an action called as Project Maven.

Gizmodo initially reported that Google’s participation prompted ethical concern and anger among employees. An internal petition called on Google CEO Sundar Pichai to cancel Project Maven and “[d]raft, publicize, and impose a clear policy declaring that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.” In April that over 3,000 Google employees signed the petition.

Now, according to Gizmodo, “about a dozen” Google employees are resigning due to Project Maven. Their reasons for resigning range from absence of transparency to ethical concerns. “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.

On google’s part it is saying that Pentagon contract is only a test and that it covers non-classified images.

“The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only,” a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo in March. “Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns. 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. In addition to the Google-specific internal petition, there is a broader petition focused on IBM, Microsoft, Amazon and Google, built by tech workers who “believe that tech companies should not be in the business of war.”

Researchers who are censorious of Google also posted an open letter concerning about Google offering the Pentagon with “open source ‘deep learning’ technology” along with engineering expertise.

“The DoD contracts under consideration by Google, and similar contracts already in place at Microsoft and Amazon, signal a dangerous alliance between the private tech industry, currently in possession of vast quantities of sensitive personal data collected from people across the globe, and one country’s military,” the letter reports. “They also signal a failure to engage with global civil society and diplomatic institutions that have already highlighted the ethical stakes of these technologies.”

According to the Defense Department, in October of 2017, over 100 companies came to an industry event allied to Project Maven.

Fortune approached Google for comment about these resignations and will update this post if it responds.

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


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