Google staff resign in protest of continuing military collaboration

Daniel Fowler
May 15, 2018

A number of Google employees have resigned in protest over a contract between the tech giant and the Pentagon, according to tech news site Gizmodo.

Google's role has been to provide AI smarts to allow drone footage to be classified and tagged, thus making it easier to identify certain objects and people - some of whom would be, therefore, potential targets. "I realized if I can't recommend people join here, then why am I still here?" a resigning Google employee said.

Meanwhile in April, the Tech Workers Coalition launched a petition demanding that Google cancels its Project Maven contract, and insisting that other technology giants avoid working with the United States military.

We've reached out to Google for comment.

Close to a dozen employees at Google Inc. have apparently quit their jobs in protest over a project in which the company is providing the U.S. Department of Defense with artificial intelligence. Their reasons for leaving range from lack of transparency to ethical concerns.

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. A Google spokesperson confirmed the partnership back in March, but said the technology was being used for "non-offensive uses only".

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According to Gizmodo, Google still hasn't developed a policy document detailing safeguards around its use of machine learning.

Still members of the tech industry are concerned.

Other companies such as IBM and Amazon have refused to work with the Department of Defense, so it's interesting that Google is failing to take its employees' concerns onboard. In their letter, the researchers have not only asked the company executives to terminate its contract with the U.S. military but also urged them to join other AI researchers and tech executive to call for an worldwide treaty prohibiting autonomous weapon systems. "They also signal a failure to engage with global civil society and diplomatic institutions that have already highlighted the ethical stakes of these technologies".

In addition, the signees demand to regulate the activities of Google in such a way that neither she, nor any of its contractors could participate in projects for the development of military technologies in the future.

According to the Pentagon, the project aims to develop and integrate "computer-vision algorithms needed to help military and civilian analysts encumbered by the sheer volume of full-motion video data that Department of Defense collects every day in support of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations".

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