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Project Maven: Nearly a dozen Google employees have reportedly quit in protest

16 May 2018

Hundreds of academics have urged Google to abandon its work on a U.S. Department of Defense-led drone program codenamed "Project Maven" that is using artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to help analyze huge amounts of captured surveillance footage. Yesterday, more than 90 academics in computer science, AI and ethics signed an open letter calling on the company to end its work on Project Maven.

In the case of Maven Google is helping the Ministry of defence to implement machine learning for the classification of images collected by unmanned aerial vehicles.

"The responsibilities of global companies like Google must be commensurate with the transnational makeup of their users".

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Some staff feel that Google shouldn't be involved in military work at all. "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".

"With Project Maven, Google becomes implicated in the questionable practice of targeted killings. These include so-called signature strikes and pattern-of-life strikes that target people based not on known activities but on probabilities drawn from long-range surveillance footage".

Google employees are not alone in opposing Google's involvement in the Pentagon project. With the building controversy, it will be interesting to see if Google back down from the project, or whether we will see a mass exodus of employees.

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Google's response to the situation was not enough, according to the former employees who spoke to Gizmodo, who said in the interview that "the strongest possible statement [they] could take against this was to leave". "Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology", the letter said, according to the New York Times.

According to a New York Times report, Amazon and Microsoft also provide services for the USA military. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Defense Department spent $7.4 billion on technology involving AI previous year alone. Having spent more than a decade developing the industry's most formidable arsenal of AI research and abilities, Google is keen to Wednesday those advances to its fast-growing cloud-computing business. It might not help Google's defense that the DoD has stated that one day wars will be won with algorithms. "We are then just a short step away from authorizing autonomous drones to kill automatically, without human supervision or meaningful human control", the International Committee for Robot Arms Control wrote in their open letter to Google's leaders. It came as Gizmodo reported that around a dozen Google employees had recently resigned over the firm's ties to Maven.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that "Don't be evil" ethos-holder Google was assisting the US Department of Defense in a little-known project called Project Maven.

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Project Maven: Nearly a dozen Google employees have reportedly quit in protest