While Google previously assured employees that its partnership with the Pentagon is "specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes" and only uses "open-source object recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer", that reportedly wasn't enough for these employees, and the Gizmodo story tries to explain their thought process.
Gizmodo spoke to a number of the employees, who voiced their concerns and anger at the Google's continued collaboration with a military programme.
"At some point I realized that I can't in good conscience advise anyone to go to work for Google, knowing what I know". A resigning employee said: "Actions speak louder than words, and that's a standard I hold myself to as well".
Dubbed Project Maven, the system is created to "speed up analysis" of military drone footage by "automatically classifying images of objects and people", Gizmodo reports. It's meant to detect vehicles and objects, track their movements and report this information back to the Department of Defense. The company's present corporate code of conduct is now "Do the right thing", something many employees Google believe it's not doing.
"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". I'm not personally responsible for everything they do.
"But I do feel responsibility".
"The DoD contracts under consideration by Google, and similar contracts already in place at Microsoft and Amazon, signal a risky alliance between the private tech industry, now in possession of vast quantities of sensitive personal data collected from people across the globe, and one country's military", the letter states. "Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns. We're actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards". "It's not like Google is this little machine-learning startup that's trying to find clients in different industries", the anonymous employee told Gizmodo, "it just seems like it makes sense for Google and Google's reputation to stay out of that". An open letter from the International Committee for Robotics Arms Control expressed "solidarity" with the protesting Google employees and was signed by over 200 researchers and academics in artificial intelligence. With the building controversy, it will be interesting to see if Google back down from the project, or whether we will see a mass exodus of employees.
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