Google won't renew controversial drone project with Pentagon amid employee backlash

Google won't renew controversial drone project with Pentagon amid employee backlash

Google won't renew controversial drone project with Pentagon amid employee backlash

Alphabet Inc.'s Google has decided not to seek renewal of a Pentagon contract that had become the focus of internal debate around the use of the tech giant's technology for military purposes, said a person familiar with the matter.

Over the past few months, Google has attracted criticism for its involvement in 'Project Maven.' The news broke in March that Google was working with the United States Department of Defense to develop artificial intelligence for analyzing footage from military drones.

Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced the decision at a meeting with employees Friday morning, three sources told Gizmodo. The system is called Maven, and a new report's surfaced suggesting that Google's chose to cease its involvement with it.

Company executives have defended the contract, saying that its cloud computing and data analysis tools are being used for non-offensive tasks and would help save lives.

While the backlash from employees appears to have cooled the company's relationship with the Pentagon, The Intercept's Lee Fang reports that Google "has not committed to forego signing other military contracts dealing with artificial intelligence, according to multiple people with knowledge of the decision".


Additionally, from 2014 to 2017, Google owned Skybox Imaging, a satellite company specializing in taking high-quality photos and videos.

Google is not the only tech firm working with the U.S. military. As Wired recently pointed out, Project Maven is poised to expand-with or without Google.

In the message to Google's Head of Defense and Intelligence Sales Scott Frohman, she reportedly said: "Avoid at ALL COSTS any mention or implication of AI". Additionally, emails show that Google planned to build a surveillance system for the Pentagon that would let analysts "click on a building and see everything associated with it". Google's participation in the program, which critics contend could help increase the accuracy of drone-missile strikes, sparked controversy both inside and outside of Google. More than 200 academics and researchers also demanded Google pull out of the deal.

"We believe that Google should not be in the business of war".

While Greene had told employees during meeting that Maven was worth $9 million to the company, internal correspondence revealed the original contract - secured in September - was for $15 million, and that the overall budget for Maven was expected to hit at least $250 million, according to Gizmodo.

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