Google reportedly not renewing contract for Project Maven drone program


Maven grew out of the Pentagon's "Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team" and is focused on using sophisticated artificial intelligence "computer vision" software to analyze imagery gathered by drones flying over war zones, according to the Defense Department.

At Google, news that the company had won a Project Maven contract led dozens of employees to resign and thousands to sign a petition calling for the firm to withdraw from the contract, Gizmodo reported. Google reportedly put at least 10 employees on the project, viewed the deal as a gateway for future military and intelligence contracts and sought and received security authorizations that would allow it to work on additional government contracts.

Greene said that the contract is set to expire in 2019 and that Google will not pursue a follow-up bid, according to Gizmodo.

However, Google employees and outside AI experts are concerned that the U.S. military will one day weaponize the research to conduct warfare.

Google, which declined to comment, has faced widespread public backlash and employee resignations for helping develop technological tools that could aid in warfighting.

Critics of these protests point out that the DoD used Google tech in the past, and it certainly won't stop developing AI, even if Google ends their contract.

It now appears that Google has decided not to renew its contract with the Pentagon.

The decision comes amid strong opposition within the technology giant's workforce to the Pentagon project known as Maven.

Google, for its part, has said its role in the project involved its open source TensorFlow AI framework and that it was used for "non-offensive uses only", The Guardian reported in March. Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said it "would not be appropriate for us to comment on the relationship between a prime and sub-prime contractor holder". According to an email written by Aileen Black, an executive director overseeing Google's business with the US government, Project Maven sponsored Google's application for higher levels of FedRAMP authorization, Security Requirements Guide 4 and 5.

Some Google employees, whose skills are in high demand, had organised resistance campaigns or threatened to leave.

"I am incredibly happy about this decision, and have a deep respect for the many people who worked and risked to make it happen".

The EFF and others stressed the need for moral and ethical frameworks regarding the use of artificial intelligence in weaponry.

Google's artificial intelligence would bring "an exquisite capability" for "near-real time analysis", the email said.



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