Google will stop providing artificial intelligence to the Defense Department after a backlash from Google employees and academics.
Google Plans Not to Renew Its Contract With Pentagon
The Google will not seek another contract for its controversial work providing artificial intelligence to the US Department of Defense for analyzing drone footage after its current contract expires, Gizmodo reported.
Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced the decision at a meeting with employees Friday morning, three sources told Gizmodo. The current contract expires in 2019 and there will not be a follow-up contract, Greene said. The meeting, dubbed Weather Report, is a weekly update on Google Cloud’s business.
Google would not choose to pursue Maven today because the backlash has been terrible for the company, Greene said, adding that the decision was made at a time when Google was more aggressively pursuing military work. The company plans to unveil new ethical principles about its use of AI next week.
A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about Greene’s comments.
Google’s decision to provide artificial intelligence to the Defense Department for the analysis of drone footage has prompted a backlash from Google employees and academics.
Thousands of employees have signed a petition asking Google to cancel its contract for the project, nicknamed Project Maven, and dozens of employees have resigned in protest.
Google, meanwhile, defended its work on Project Maven, with senior executives noting that the contract is of relatively little value and that its contribution amounts merely to providing the Defense Department with open-source software.
But internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo show that executives viewed Project Maven as a golden opportunity that would open doors for business with the military and intelligence agencies.
The emails also show that Google and its partners worked extensively to develop machine learning algorithms for the Pentagon, with the goal of creating a sophisticated system that could surveil entire cities.
The two sets of emails reveal that Google’s senior leadership was enthusiastically supportive of Project Maven—especially because it would set Google Cloud on the path to win larger Pentagon contracts—but deeply concerned about how the company’s involvement would be perceived. The emails also outline Google’s internal timeline and goals for Project Maven.
In order to work on Project Maven, Google Cloud faced a challenge. The company would need to use footage gathered by military drones to build its machine learning models, but it lacked the official government authorization to hold that kind of sensitive data in its cloud.