Thousands of Google employees are demanding an end to the company’s involvement in a Pentagon drone program.
In a letter signed by more than 3,100 staffers, company CEO Sundar Pichai is urged to cut Google’s ties with Project Maven, a program that uses artificial intelligence to analyze military drone footage.
“Google is implementing Project Maven, a customized AI surveillance engine that uses ‘Wide Area Motion Imagery’ data captured by US Government drones to detect vehicles and other objects, track their motions, and provide results to the Department of Defense,” the letter states.
While Google cloud chief Diane Greene reportedly told staffers that the technology would not “operate or fly drones” or “be used to launch weapons,” the letter argues that the program could easily evolve once completed.
“This plan will irreparably damage Google’s brand and its ability to compete for talent. Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public’s trust,” the letter states. “By entering into this contract, Google will join the ranks of companies like Palantir, Raytheon, and General Dynamics.”
According to the Department of Defense, the military intends to use Project Maven to “deploy computer algorithm to war zones.”
The letter also asks Pichai to consider Google’s motto – “Don’t Be Evil.”
“Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance – and potentially lethal outcomes – is not acceptable.”
In a statement Tuesday, Google, though not directly responding to the letter, said that “any military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns.”
“We’re actively engaged across the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic,” the statement said.
Concern has also been raised about Eric Schmidt, Google’s former executive chairman and current member of the executive board of parent company Alphabet, who serves on the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board.
With a staff of more than 70,000 employees, questions remain as to whether Google will listen to the little more than 3,100 protesting the issue.