Diane Greene, who is the head of the Google Cloud business that won a contract with the Pentagon's Project Maven, said during a weekly meeting with employees on Friday that the company was backing away from its AI work with the military, according to a person familiar with the discussion but not permitted to speak publicly about it.
The employees signed an open letter saying that its involvement with Pentagon is putting user's trust at risk, as well as ignoring its "ethical and moral responsibility", which led to more than a dozen employees resigning over the issue.
The debate over Project Maven comes as military and law enforcement grow increasingly reliant on tech companies to fuel their surveillance efforts.
Google's involvement in the controversial Project Maven aims to speed up the analysis of drone footage. The code name for a Department of Defense (DoD) Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT), Project Maven is an artificial intelligence (A.I.) program at present a work in progress. The company's decision to join hands with the USA military had caused a lot of uproar in the social media and many employees had resigned due to this. Of course, this move disappointed a lot of Google employees and nearly everyone who believed in the "Don't be evil" tagline of the company. Google has been always been criticized for avoiding tax, destroying small businesses online, but now Google has finally stooped to a new low.
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Maven had an initial budget of US$70 million. But Amazon.com and Microsoft have won far more cloud business.
An internal email sent in October 2017 entitled "MAVEN Kickoff Meeting Notes" quoted deputy secretary of defense Patrick Shanahan as saying during a meeting with Google that he wanted "a built-in AI capability" in all future Department of Defense systems deployed in the field.
Google declined to comment on internal documents and messages seen by Reuters. And Google employees reportedly didn't agree with the company's decision to participate. Google has told employees it was getting less than $10 million for its work on the program, according to one source who requested anonymity because the information has not been made public.