Google employees quit over drone "evil"

MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle

MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle

In the case of Maven Google is helping the Ministry of defence to implement machine learning for the classification of images collected by unmanned aerial vehicles.

Gizmodo initially reported that Google's participation prompted ethical concern and anger among employees.

The pressure from employees, however, seem to do little in swaying Google's intent in continuing its work on Project Maven and also being the lead contender for another Pentagon cloud computing contract called Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI).

If so, we recommend you check this out instead: Gizmodo reports that "around a dozen" Google employees are now quitting their jobs to protest Google's continued actions. Their reasons for resigning range from absence of transparency to ethical concerns.

For its part, Google says that its Pentagon contract is only a test and that it covers non-classified images.

Google has defended their work and in a statement made last month, the company said, "The technology is used to flag images for human review and is meant to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work".

According to Gizmodo, Google still hasn't developed a policy document detailing safeguards around its use of machine learning.

"We're actively engaged across the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic and also with outside experts, as we continue to develop our policies around the development and use of our machine learning technologies".

However members of the tech industry are anxious.

So far about 4,000 workers have signed the petition out of the roughly 85,000 workers that Alphabet, Google's parent company, employs. "Over the last couple of months, I've been less and less impressed with the response and the way people's concerns are being treated and listened to", an unidentified employee who resigned told Gizmodo.

According to a New York Times report, Amazon and Microsoft also provide services for the USA military. "They also signal a failure to engage with global civil society and diplomatic institutions that have already highlighted the ethical stakes of these technologies". There is no indication that the petition nor the resignations have impacted Google's decision to work on Project Maven. "We can not outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties.This contract puts Google's reputation at risk and stands in direct opposition to our core values".

Project Maven was started in April of 2017 by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, who started an Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team.

Project Maven is essentially a research initiative to develop computer vision algorithms that can analyze drone footage.

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