Google to scrub US deal protested by employees

The Google logo at its headquarters building in Brussels

Google's involvement with the Pentagon has divided staff and 4,000 employees signed a petition demanding "a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology".

In a decision some have called "troubling", Google will not renew a contract helping the USA military battle terrorism with analysis of aerial drone imagery, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday. The source said Google would soon release new company principles related to the ethical uses of AI.

Project Maven was launched last April as a pathfinder project for ways the military could use AI to update its national-security and defence capabilties "over increasingly capable adversaries and competitors", a DoD memo stated.

There were also reports of a handful of employees resigning in protest, openly advocating the company to cancel the Maven contract.

The source said Google does plan to outline its views on the ethics of its artificial intelligence work at some point in the near future. Under the terms of the so-called Project Maven, Google was working with the military to analyse sensitive drone footage with artificial intelligence software. According to them, "Google should not be in the business of war".

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Maven had an initial budget of $70 million.

Google in August 2017 hosted defense executives to demonstrate its artificial intelligence capabilities, according to a document shared with Google employees and seen by Reuters.

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.

Although ambiguous the emails do reveal how Google AI technology will be a vital part of the new drone systems used in across the world to identify potential targets to drop bombs on.

The Project Maven contract is also apparently worth more than Google executives once said that its partnership with Department of Defense is around $15 million instead of the $9 million that was previously reported. A mass-compliant was filed requesting Google to stay away from these co-operations while around 12 employees had resigned from the tech giant, as the company didn't respond.

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