Google Will Continue Defense Work, But Not on ‘Technologies That Cause Harm’

Missile-AI-Use

In Google's new principles, the company pledges not to pursue AI applications for weapons and technologies that "gather or use information for surveillance", in violation of accepted human rights laws.

The new principles follow months of debate inside Google over AI technology it had developed for the US military for analyzing drone footage as part of what was known as Project Maven.

After recent backlash from employees and internet users, Google announced that its contract with the Pentagon to develop machine learning (ML) algorithms that can be used to identify drone targets will not be renewed when it expires next year.

"On most fronts, these are well thought-out principles, and with a few caveats we'd recommend that other major tech companies set out similar guidelines and objectives for their AI work", Peter Eckersley, chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Gizmodo.

But can Google realistically stick to its now-public principles? The project called Project Maven even caused the resignation of a dozen or so employees who objected to the company's involvement in such a potentially damaging project.

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More than 4,000 Google employees signed a petition protesting Google's contract, and some staffers resigned over it. The company said on Thursday that if the principles had existed earlier, Google would not have bid for Project Maven.

Weapons or other technologies whose principal goal or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people. However, the AI principles do not make clear whether Google would be precluded from working on a project like Maven-which promised vast surveillance capabilities to the military but stopped short of enabling algorithmic drone strikes.

The seven principles were drawn up to quell concern over Google's work on Project Maven, a Defense Department initiative to apply AI tools to drone footage. The Web giant - famous for its past "Don't be evil" mantra - is in the running for two multibillion-dollar Defense Department contracts for office and cloud services. They should be "built and tested for safety", be built with privacy in mind, and "uphold high standards of scientific excellence". "Google is already battling with privacy issues when it comes to AI and data; I don't know what would happen if the media starts picking up a theme that Google is secretly building AI weapons or AI technologies to enable weapons for the Defense industry".

Google today released guidelines for the creation of artificial intelligence, which includes a ban on the creation of autonomous weaponry and most applications of AI with the potential to harm people. In response, they circulated an internal letter, arguing that "Google should not be in the business of war".

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