- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2018

Thousands of Google employees have signed a letter urging the company’s chief executive to pull out of a Pentagon drone surveillance program, “Project Maven,” warning further participation will “irreparably damage” its image and conflict with its motto, “Don’t Be Evil.”

“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. 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,” begins a letter circulating within Google signed by more than 3,100 employees as of Wednesday, The New York Times first reported.

Launched in April 2017, Project Maven is a U.S. Department of Defense program designed to “accelerate DoD’s integration of big data and machine learning,” according to the Pentagon.

Google acknowledged participating in the program last month after its partnership was first reported by Gizmodo, a tech blog, and a Google spokesperson said at the time that the company was working at using its custom artificial intelligence technology to assist with military surveillance, spurring discussions within the company that ultimately culminated in the employees’ letter to CEO Sundar Pichai.

“This plan will irreparably damage Google’s brand and its ability to compete for talent,” the employees warned. “The argument that other firms, like Microsoft and Amazon, are also participating doesn’t make this any less risky for Google. Google’s unique history, its motto Don’t Be Evil, and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart.”

“This contract puts Google’s reputation at risk and stands in direct opposition to our core values. Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance — and potentially lethal outcomes — is not acceptable,” the employees wrote.

The letter calls on Mr. Pichai to cancel the project immediately and adopt a policy officially forbidding the company and its contractors from building “warfare technology.”

Google said in a statement Wednesday that its technology is meant for “non-offensive” purposes only, and that it was taking its employees’ concerns into consideration.

“An important part of our culture is having employees who are actively engaged in the work that we do. We know that there are many open questions involved in the use of new technologies, so these conversations — with employees and outside experts — are hugely important and beneficial,” the Mountain View, California-based company said in a statement.

“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 and also with outside experts, as we continue to develop our policies around the development and use of our machine-learning technologies,” Google said.


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