A project that Google has in place with the Pentagon is facing backlash from thousands of Google employees, who have sent a letter to the Google CEO demanding that the company withdraw from the project, claiming it could “hurt their brand.”
The project involves Google building technology that could be used for drones. The company has assured the employees that Google will not be operating the drones or launching any weapons, but that wasn’t enough for the disgruntled employees, who responded with, “While this eliminates a narrow set of direct applications, the technology is being built for the military, and once it’s delivered it could easily be used to assist in those tasks.”
“This plan will irreparably damage Google’s brand and its ability to compete for talent,” they wrote in the letter. “Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public’s trust.”
From The Hill:
The New York Times on Wednesday published the text of the letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, which reportedly has more than 3,100 employee signatures, calling for a halt to its work on the effort, known as Project Maven.
“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” the letter reads. “Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.”
The letter continued on, demanding that Google “cancel this project immediately,” as the employees claimed this project is hurting the company reputation:
“Google’s unique history, it’s motto ‘Don’t Be Evil,’ and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart. We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties. Google’s stated values make this clear: Every one of our users is trusting us. Never jeopardize that. Ever. This contract puts Google’s reputation at risk and stands in direct opposition t oour core values. Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance – and potentially lethal outcomes – is not acceptable.”
Google also responded in an email statement to The Hill:
In an emailed statement to The Hill, a Google spokesperson said that the company appreciated that some of its employees had strong feelings about its defense work, but emphasized that the program does not involve building weapons for the military.
“Maven is a well publicized [Department of Defense] project and Google is working on one part of it — specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes and using open-source object recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer,” the spokesperson said.
“The models are based on unclassified data only. The technology is used to flag images for human review and is intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work.”