- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2018

Google is ending its participation in a controversial Defense Department program after coming under fire from employees ethically opposed to using the company’s artificial intelligence technology for assisting military operations, Gizmodo reported Friday.

Diane Greene, the chief executive in charge of Google’s cloud businesses, told employees during a morning meeting that the company won’t seek another contract for the Pentagon partnership, three sources told the tech website.

“We’ve always said this was an 18-month contract that we did, so it ends in March of 2019,” Ms. Greene said, a source familiar with the meeting told BuzzFeed later Friday.

There “will be no follow-on” to the project, she reportedly added.

Dubbed “Project Maven,” the effort involved using Google’s artificial intelligence technology to assist the military with analyzing footage captured by unmanned aerial systems, or drones.

The project got off the ground in April 2017, but it didn’t make waves until a year later when more than 3,100 Google employees signed a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai opposing the partnership on ethical grounds.

“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” the employees wrote. “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.

“Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance — and potentially lethal outcomes — is not acceptable,” the employees wrote.

Ms. Greene conceded during Friday’s meeting that decision not to seek another contract was driven by the backlash brought on by Google’s involvement, Gizmodo reported.

Representatives for Google did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Google intends to introduce new “ethical principals” next week involving its use of artificial intelligence, Gizmodo reported.

Along with the letter to Mr. Pichai opposing Project Maven, roughly a dozen Google employees quit in protest over the program, Gizmodo reported last month.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, leaked emails published by The Intercept on Thursday revealed that Google’s business development arm expected Project Maven’s contract to be worth $250 million per year eventually — far greater than the $9 million Ms. Greene previously said the deal was worth, according to an earlier New York Times report.

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