After Google announced its decision not to continue working on a controversial artificial intelligence (AI) contract with the Pentagon, a debate sparked regarding what Silicon Valley’s role should be in using their technology for military purposes.
After being faced with massive internal pressure, Google’s employees’ meeting was told on Friday that it would not renew its contract with the Defense Department’s flagship AI program, known as Project Maven after it expires in 2019.
A handful of employees reportedly resigned in protest of the contract while thousands of employees signed a letter urging the company’s CEO not to allow Google to be drafted into the “business of war.” Employees used Google’s old “Don’t Be Evil” motto in pressuring the technology giant to cut ties with the Pentagon.
Project Maven worked with Google on a new technology like surveillance drones, used to track the whereabouts of terrorist organizations and uncover devised plots before they unfold.
Bob Work, a former deputy Defense secretary who established Project Maven in April 2017, told The Hill that he is still hoping Google will reconsider its decision.
“I worry that a lot of companies will look at Google and say, ‘Wow, if Google isn’t going to work with the Department of Defense, maybe I shouldn’t either.’ So I’m hoping that this is not going to turn into any type of stampede,” Work said.
Employees at Google warned that the government might use its partnership with the search giant in order to use the tons of personal data Google holds through email accounts and Google Maps. They fear that with Google’s help, the U.S. military could develop Artificial Intelligence Network that will function autonomously and make its own decisions not included in the original programming.
“We have warned that technology companies should be extremely cautious about working with any military agency where the application involves potential harm to humans or could contribute to arms races or geopolitical instability,” said Karen Gullo, a spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“While we don’t know details about Google’s decision to not renew the Project Maven contract, we’re pleased to know that Google listened to the concerns of employees and will reportedly unveil a set of ethical principles about its use of AI.”