Following Worker Revolt, Google to End Drone Technology Contract with Pentagon

03 June, 2018, 18:16 | Author: Eric Barnett
  • NYT: Pentagon project causing

Tech giant Google will not seek to renew its contract with the U.S. Department of Defense for a drone project that has sparked criticism among employees.

The contract is set to expire in 2019, and the decision not to renew was announced internally during a weekly meeting by Google Cloud chief Diane Greene, who added that the company will announce new ethical principles surrounding artificial intelligence and the military.

The Maven contract was of little value to Google right now, but executives reportedly viewed Maven as a gateway to more lucrative military and intelligence contracts.

Google Cloud's chief AI scientist, Fei-Fei Li, was also reportedly keen on the deal, though reaffirmed her focus on "human-centric AI" and refusal to work on weaponized AI when part of the email was published by The New York Times earlier.

Project Maven, which would have provided AI and image recognition tech for analyzing drone footage, has received plenty of backlash. Google's internal unrest became the subject of public record back in April, when thousands signed a letter protesting the company's work with the Defense Department. Dozens of Google employees resigned in protest over the Pentagon contract, Gizmodo reported. Google declined to comment for this story.

Selling cloud computing services, including the object detection tool being used with drone footage, is one of the top areas Google is counting on to diversify revenue.


The news of Google's plan to end its involvement was first reported by Gizmodo.

The Google workers also noted the company's well-known former motto, "Don't be evil", warning that Project Maven "will irreparably damage Google's brand and its ability to compete for talent".

Google is breaking up with the Pentagon. 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.

Wow. Kudos to all the Google employees who forced the company's hand on this.

The EFF and others stressed the need for moral and ethical frameworks regarding the use of artificial intelligence in weaponry.

"Google management is finally recognizing that their workforce will not let this issue slide, but TWC is skeptical that internal rules will substantially alter their position in regards to military contracts", a TWC representative said in an email to Fast Company. Additionally, e-mails showed the project was initially worth $15 million, but the budget could grow to be as high as $250 million.

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