Economy

Google 'to end' Pentagon Artificial Intelligence project

Google 'to end' Pentagon Artificial Intelligence project

In the wake of revelations about Google's role in a military image recognition project that led to the resignation of about a dozen employees and a petition signed by thousands more, the company has chose to end ties with the program when the current contract expires next year, Gizmodo reports.

Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced the decision at a meeting with employees Friday morning, three sources told Gizmodo. While Bloomberg reported that more than 100 companies attended the industry day last October, the Pentagon hasn't publicly identified which companies are working on the project, and many companies in the industry have been closemouthed about whether or not they're even involved with the project.

The Maven contract was of little value to Google right now, but executives reportedly viewed Maven as a gateway to more lucrative military and intelligence contracts.

The tech company has made it clear that when a contract with the United States Department of Defense expires in 2019, said contract won't be renewed.

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The project was meant to assist the Defense Department in analyzing drone footage in order to develop new kinds of drone technology.

Google, for its part, says it now intends to release a detailed set of ethical guidelines for developing artificial intelligence.

So far, Google hasn't commented on Gizmodo's report. 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.

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When the extent of Google's participation in Project Maven became public, it ignited a civil war inside Google.

Disquiet around Google's involvement with US Pentagon programme Project Maven has been building for some months now. Staff have petitioned against it, resigned in protest, flooded message boards, and confronted senior management in fractious meetings.

Google was anxious it could get negative press because of Maven, and that the company's involvement with the project would taint its reputation, the leaked emails suggest. Additionally, e-mails showed the project was initially worth $15 million, but the budget could grow to be as high as $250 million.

"Although we have taken tentative steps to explore the potential of artificial intelligence, big data and deep learning", then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work wrote in an April 2017 memo discussing Project Maven, "I remain convinced that we need to do much more and move much faster across DoD to take advantage of recent and future advances in these critical areas".

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