Google scrubs US military contract following protest by employees: Report

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Google scrubs US military contract following protest by employees: Report


Image Courtesy: Reuters

Google’s involvement in the US Military’s Project Maven caused a furore in the company last month. The company’s support to the program had prompted an internal rebellion which saw over a dozen employees handing over their resignation. And just weeks after the issue first came to light, word is that the search engine giant has decided to withdraw its support to the program.

Google will not renew the contract to help the US Military analyse the footage captured by drones when it expires in March next year, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Google Cloud Chief Executive Diane Green during a weekly meeting on Friday told the employees that the company was backing up from its artificial intelligence (AI) work with the US Military, The New York Times reported. Green told the Times that the tech giant would have never sought Project Maven had the company officials anticipated the response by the employees.

The news was welcomed by Meredith Whittaker, a research scientist working with Google. “I am incredibly happy about this decision, and have a deep respect for the many people who worked and risked to make it happen. Google should not be in the business of war,” she wrote in a Tweet.

As mentioned earlier, Google’s involvement in Project Maven– a US Department of Defense project which aims to use AI to analyse the footage captured by military drones– had prompted a rebellion inside the company. While 13 of the company’s employees had resigned, 4,600 others had signed an internal petition asking Google CEO Sundar Pichai and company’s other top executives to withdraw their support for the program. The protest had even prompted scholars and technicians to pen down an open letter to the company’s top management in support of the internal petition by the Googlers.

As a response to the protest, the tech giant removed its famous “don’t be evil” phrase from its code of conduct as the phrase found a mention in the internal letter by the company’s employees. “Google’s unique history, its 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,” the letter stated.

ALSO READ: Google employees are leaving the company because they don’t want it to build AI software for the military

Meanwhile, a group of nine people at Google have started working on a set of ethical guidelines for the company’s future involvement in military projects. These guidelines as per the company CEO Sundar Pichai will be released soon.



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