In Brief

Project Maven: Google employees resign over controversial US military AI programme

More than 4,000 staff sign petition urging company to stop developing “technology for war”

Google employees are resigning in protest at a controversial artificial intelligence programme being developed for the US military by the company, according to reports. 

Dubbed Project Maven, the system is designed to “speed up analysis” of military drone footage by “automatically classifying images of objects and people”, Gizmodo reports.

The tech news website says “about a dozen” staff working on the project are believed to have walked out, citing concerns ranging from the ethics of the AI programme to the search engine giant’s political stance.

More than 4,000 employees have signed a petition calling on Google to ditch the project and vow never to develop “technology for war”, says ZDNet.

The protest is also being backed by “some 400 technology academics and researchers from around the world”, who have published an open letter to Google, adds the tech site.

According to CNet, the company has assured staff that its partnership with the Pentagon is “specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes” and only uses “open-source object recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer”. 

Responding to the petition and resignations, a Google spokesperson told the Daily Express that the technology being developed under the Project Maven programme “is used to flag images for human review and is intended to save lives”.

Although “any military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns”, the spokesperson said, Google is “actively engaged across the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic and also with outside experts”. 

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