Google won't renew its U.S. Defense Department contract in 2019

03 June, 2018, 18:19 | Author: Martin Tyler

The pressure to stop working with the military appears to have been too much for Google as the company reportedly will not renew a contract to build artificial intelligence tools for the Pentagon.

The war within: The head of Google's cloud business, Diane Greene, reportedly told staff this week that the company would not seek a new contract after it expires.

Bob Work, the former deputy secretary of defence who launched Project Maven previous year, called Google's decision not to renew the contract "troubling" and anxious it could discourage others in Silicon Valley from working with the military on autonomous technologies that could assist in foreign conflicts and national defence. The system is called Maven, and a new report's surfaced suggesting that Google's chose to cease its involvement with it.

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Project Maven is an artificial intelligence program created to use data captured by government drones to identify and track objects viewed on surveillance footage.

About 4K employees recently signed a petition demanding "a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology". The company plans to unveil new ethical principles about its use of AI next week. The Outline has contacted Google for comment as to why there is not a similar ban on the military use of Google Earth. The DoD has millions of hours of drone footage that pour in from around the world, and having humans comb through it for "objects of interest" isn't a scalable proposition. Despite Google's assurances that the project was "specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes", an internal petition signed by over 4,000 employees demanded that Google leave the project. Google's contract accounted for only a small part of Project Maven's technical ambitions, and other companies work on similar image-recognition software that could potentially be deployed as an alternative.

Disquiet around Google's involvement with US Pentagon programme Project Maven has been building for some months now.

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Google News Lab's Asia Pacific HQ in Singapore. Additionally, e-mails showed the project was initially worth $15 million, but the budget could grow to be as high as $250 million. "We value all of our relationships with academic institutions and commercial companies involved with Project Maven".

The Pentagon program intends to use artificial intelligence to interpret video images.

An internal email sent in October 2017 entitled "MAVEN Kickoff Meeting Notes" quoted Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as saying during a meeting with Google in Mountain View, California, that he wanted "a built-in AI capability" in all future Department of Defense systems deployed in the field.

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