A large number of Google employees have protested in a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai against the development of Google software that uses machine learning to interpret video images that are then used for military purposes.
A total of 3,100 concerned employees signed the letter, which was published by The New York Times. They fear that the technology will be used, for example, for more targeted drone attacks. The Google employees believe that Google should not engage in warfare and ask Pichai to cancel the so-called Project Maven.
Project Maven is described by the signatories as a “customized AI surveillance engine” that uses “wide area motion imagery” from US government drones to detect and track vehicles and other objects. The results of this will be sent to the US Department of Defense. Google, as one of the parties involved in this project, is working on some of the technology.
Google CEO Diana Greene has previously said the technology will not be used directly to fly drones or fire weapons, but would be used to mark up video material for human analysis. According to the concerned Google employees, the technology will be delivered to the military and can be used there immediately for military tasks.
The group also wants Google to have a policy that “war technology is never built.” The project is believed to damage Google’s reputation, with the letter citing growing concerns about autonomous weapon systems where AI plays a critical role. According to the signatories, this project makes Google comparable to weapons manufacturers such as Raytheon and General Dynamics.