Thousands of Google workers have signed an open letter to their CEO, protesting against the company’s involvement with a Pentagon programme to use artificial intelligence (AI) for video detection and analysis in drones.
They believe the technology could make drone strikes more accurate, and wish the company to stay out of the “business of war”.
The letter, sent to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, reads:
We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.
Google is implementing Project Maven, a customised AI surveillance engine that uses “Wide Area Motion Imagery” data captured by US Government drones to detect vehicles and other objects, track their motions, and provide results to the Department of Defense.
Recently, Googlers voiced concerns about Maven internally. Diane Greene responded, assuring them that the technology will not “operate or fly drones” and “will not be used to launch weapons”.
While this eliminates a narrow set of direct applications, the technology is being built for the military, and once it’s delivered it could easily be used to assist in these tasks.
This plan will irreparably damage Google’s brand and its ability to compete for talent.
Amid growing fears of biased and weaponised AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public’s trust. By entering into this contract, Google will join the ranks of companies like Palantir, Raytheon, and General Dynamics.
The argument that other firms, like Microsoft and Amazon, are also participating doesn’t make this any less risky for Google. Google’s unique history, its motto Don’t Be Evil, and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart.
We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties.
Google’s stated values make this clear: Every one of our users is trusting us. Never jeopardise that. Ever.
This contract puts Google’s reputation at risk and stands in direct opposition to our core values. Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance – and potentially lethal outcomes – is not acceptable.
Recognizing Google’s moral and ethical responsibility, and the threat to Google’s reputation, we request that you:
- Cancel this project immediately
- Draft, publicise, and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.