Google to scrub U.S. military deal protested by employees

Alicia Cross
June 3, 2018

Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google will not renew a contract to help the US military analyse aerial drone imagery when it expires in March, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday, as the company moves to defuse internal uproar over the deal.

There "will be no follow-on" to the project, she reportedly added.

Project Maven, which would have provided AI and image recognition tech for analyzing drone footage, has received plenty of backlash.

About 4,000 Google employees asked the technology giant to cancel the contract in a signed petition.

Several Google AI employees had told The Post they believed they wielded a powerful influence over the company's decision-making: The advanced technology's top researchers and developers are in heavy demand, and many had organised resistance campaigns or threatened to leave.

Google will stop selling its artificial intelligence expertise to the Pentagon in a controversial partnership that saw massive pushback from the Mountain View firm's employees, according to a new report. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the reports, Google's leadership agreed to roll out a new policy next week.

Google is breaking up with the Pentagon.

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Separately, The Times said, Diane Greene, the CEO of Google Cloud, has reassured the staff that its Project Maven involvement is "not for lethal purposes" and the deal is worth "only" $9 million.

The Times said Pichai addressed the matter at an all-staff meeting last Thursday, telling employees that the firm intended to come up with a list of principles about its use of artificial intelligence for military means.

"We value all of our relationships with academic institutions and commercial companies involved with Project Maven", Harris said.

"I am incredibly happy about this decision, and have a deep respect for the many people who worked and risked to make it happen".

"Although we have taken tentative steps to explore the potential of artificial intelligence, big data and deep learning", then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work wrote in an April 2017 memo discussing Project Maven, "I remain convinced that we need to do much more and move much faster across DoD to take advantage of recent and future advances in these critical areas".

Maven had an initial budget of $70 million (£52.4 million).

The online tech magazine said it had obtained internal correspondence showing that high-ranking Googlers had been eagerly anticipating the benefits Maven could bring to the company, and offering up expertise that could boost the Pentagon's eyes-in-the-skies capabilities.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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