Project Maven: Google employees resign over controversial USA military AI programme

Some Google employees are resigning due to involvement with Project Maven

One resigning employee said that they couldn't live with the responsibility of the company's decisions, adding: "I tried to remind myself that Google's decisions are not my decisions".

Several Google employees have resigned in protest over the company's involvement in a U.S. military pilot programme known as Project Maven, Gizmodo reported.

Under the terms of the partnership, which is Google's first in collaboration with the D.O.D.'s Project Maven, the tech giant is helping the government use machine learning to classify images captured by drones.

A spokesperson said: "The technology is used to flag images for human review and is meant to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work".

It has provided the Department of Defense with its TensorFlow APIs to assist in object recognition, which the Pentagon believes will eventually turn its stores of video into "actionable intelligence". In April that over 3,000 Google employees signed the petition.

In October of 2017, over 100 companies attended an industry event related to Project Maven, according to the Defense Department. Thousands of others have signed an internal petition in an effort to persuade CEO Sundar Pichai to withdraw Google from "the business of war".

In the letter, Google employees while citing the company's history of avoiding involvement in military work and its motto of "Don't Be Evil" urge the company bosses to cancel Project Maven and draft and publicise a clear policy stating that neither the company nor its contractors would build war technology. "Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns".

"It's not like Google is this little machine-learning startup that's trying to find clients in different industries", said one of the resigning employees. Employees who resign in protest, saying that leaders become less transparent in making controversial business decisions and seem less interested in listening to the objections of colleagues. "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 unidentified employee who resigned told Gizmodo.

The group wants Google to terminate its role in Project Maven, vow never to develop military technologies nor use personal data it has collected for military operations, and promise never to participate in the development of autonomous weapons.

The group said it was "deeply concerned" that the data Google collects on people's lives through its products could be integrated with military surveillance data for targeted killing. Google didn't respond to two requests for comment.

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