Earlier this month, it was announced that Google was offering its resources to the United States Department of Defense for Project Maven, a research initiative to develop computer vision algorithms that can analyze drone images. In response, more than 3,100 Google employees have signed a letter urging Google CEO Sundar Pichai to re-evaluate the company's share, since "Google should not be in the business of war," reports The New York Times.
Work on Project Maven began last April, and while the details of what Google actually provides to the DOD are not clear, it is understood to be a Pentagon research initiative to improve the analysis of drone images. In a press release, a Google spokesperson confirmed that the company was giving DOD access to its open-source TensorFlow software, which is used in machine learning applications that are capable of understanding the content of the photos.
Google described its work at Project Maven as "non-offensive," and Diane Greene, head of Google's cloud operation and member of Alphabet's board of directors, said the technology will not be used to "operate or fly unmanned aircraft." "and that" should not be used to throw weapons. " But this is not enough for the many employees who signed the letter addressed to Pichai. "While this eliminates a limited set of direct applications," the letter says, "technology is being built for the military, and once it is delivered, it could be easily used to help with these tasks."
"This contract puts Google's reputation at risk and directly opposes our core values."
The letter continues to request Google to cancel the Maven Project and that the company believes and enforces a policy that states it will not engage in the construction of war technology. "This contract puts Google's reputation at risk and directly opposes our core values," the letter says. "Building this technology to help the US government in military surveillance, and potentially lethal results, is not acceptable."
A Google spokesman issued a response to the letter on Tuesday, reports The New York Times, stating that "any military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns … We are actively engaged throughout the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic. "In addition," Technology is used to mark images for review by humans and aims to save lives and prevent people from having to do extremely tedious work, "reads Google's statement.
Other companies, such as Amazon and Microsoft, have also worked on defense projects, but Google employees who endorse the letter do not see this as a way to endorse Google's work on Project Maven. "The unique history of Google, its motto & # 39; Do not Be Evil & # 39; and its direct reach in the lives of billions of users distinguish it," the letter states. In the past, Google has been careful with links to military research. In 2013, he rejected funds from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) after purchasing a series of robotics companies linked to the military research organization.