Google employees urge company to drop Pentagon A.I. work

Google employees urge company to drop Pentagon A.I. work
© Getty Images

Thousands of Google employees have signed on to a letter demanding that the company withdraw from its work on a Pentagon project that builds machine-learning technology that could be used for drone warfare.

The New York Times on Wednesday published the text of the letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, which reportedly has more than 3,100 employee signatures, calling for a halt to its work on the effort, known as Project Maven.

“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” the letter reads. “Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.”

ADVERTISEMENT
According to the letter, employees raised their concerns about the program internally and Google board member Diane Greene said that the company’s work would not involve operating drones or launching weapons.

But the authors of the letter say that those guarantees are insufficient.

“This plan will irreparably damage Google’s brand and its ability to compete for talent,” they wrote. “Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public’s trust.”

In an emailed statement to The Hill, a Google spokesperson said that the company appreciated that some of its employees had strong feelings about its defense work, but emphasized that the program does not involve building weapons for the military.

“Maven is a well publicized [Department of Defense] project and Google is working on one part of it — specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes and using open-source object recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer,” the spokesperson said.

“The models are based on unclassified data only. The technology is used to flag images for human review and is intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work.”