Last month, we covered news that Google and the Pentagon were collaborating on developing artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage. There have been reports that Google employees were exceedingly unhappy over this, and a recent open letter sent to company CEO Sundar Pichai makes that point from the beginning, opening with: 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. The letter notes that while Google has promised its work will not be used to operate drones or launch weapons, the technology in question could be used for other military purposes.

It then declares that being seen as an ally of the US military in these matters could irreparably harm Google’s efforts to attract new talent by grouping it with companies like Palantir, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. The Google employees state, “We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties.” The authors reject the idea that the situation is permissible simply because companies like Amazon and Microsoft are participating.

The letter, which was signed by more than 3,100 people, declares that Google’s unique position requires that it hold itself to a different, higher standard. Google’s formal response, in contrast, is a handwaved “No, seriously, everything is fine.” We quote: Maven is a well-publicized DoD project, and Google is working on one part of it—specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes and using open-source object-recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer.

The models are based on unclassified data only. The technology is used to flag images for human review and is intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work. Read more from…

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