Google won't renew Pentagon AI project after employees protest

Google has defended the project by downplaying the company's involvement, arguing that the company contributes in a minor role, "merely providing the Defense Department with open-source software", Gizmodo reports.

The Silicon Valley tech giant reportedly announced to employees Friday that it won't seek another contract with the Air Force artificial intelligence initiative once this one is over in 2019, according to Gizmodo.

Google staff demanded the company to work on a clear policy that states that the company or its contractors will never "build warfare technology".

"We believe that Google should not be in the business of war".

The digital advertising and search giant, which holds "Do the right thing" as its motto and hauled in $110 billion in revenue a year ago, had sought to use "Project Maven" as a "golden opportunity" and stepping stone to lucrative military contracts, the report said. The work, which involves providing artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage for the government, has been highly controversial and included many employees quitting in protest.

Google, which declined to comment, has faced widespread public backlash and employee resignations for helping develop technological tools that could aid in warfighting.

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The contract was reported to be worth less than US$10 million (RM40 million) to Google, but was thought to have potential to lead to more lucrative technology collaborations with the military.

Through Project Maven, Google provides artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to help humans detect and identify targets captured by drone images.

If you want to take a look at a DoD presentation regarding Project Maven, you can take look at a 27-page document that was obtained by Lauren Weinstein, a technology activist.

The news sparked outrage in the tech community, and even inside Google. That's small by Google standards, in light of the company's reported $110.8 million in revenue for 2017. The company, however, remained cautious of this contract becoming public anxious about how people would perceive it. Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM are other tech giants competing for similar contracts. According to an email written by Aileen Black, an executive director overseeing Google's business with the US government, Project Maven sponsored Google's application for higher levels of FedRAMP authorization, Security Requirements Guide 4 and 5. It's unknown what Google's future relationship with the Pentagon will be like.

Google has been wrestling internally for months with the prospect of military work.

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