Google employees quit over controversial Project Maven

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About a dozen Google employees reportedly left the company over its insistence on developing AI for the USA military through a program called Project Maven.

Remember when 3,100 Google employees signed a protest letter over the use of Google's machine learning algorithms to help drones identify and track objects for the US Department of Defense?

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.

But according to Gizmodo, this project has been hugely controversial within Google, with some employees saying that it jeopardises trust and goes against the company's core beliefs.

On Monday (14 May) more than 90 researchers and academics signed an open letter criticising the company's involvement in Project Maven, addressed to executives including Sundar Pichai and Diane Greene. The company's present corporate code of conduct is now "Do the right thing", something many employees Google believe it's not doing.

"The DoD contracts under consideration by Google, and similar contracts already in place at Microsoft and Amazon, signal a risky alliance between the private tech industry, now in possession of vast quantities of sensitive personal data collected from people across the globe, and one country's military", the letter reports. "Over the last couple of months, I've been less and less impressed with the response and the way people's concerns are being treated and listened to", an unidentified employee who resigned told Gizmodo.

One resigning employee questioned why Google is even bothering with such a controversial program when it is already so massive.

Other companies such as IBM and Amazon have refused to work with the Department of Defense, so it's interesting that Google is failing to take its employees' concerns onboard.

It stated: "The private data collected by Google comes with a responsibility not only to use that data to improve its own technologies and expand its business, but also to benefit society". "Google has moved into military work without subjecting itself to public debate or deliberation, either domestically or internationally". I'm not personally responsible for everything they do.

"Any military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns. I realized if I can't recommend people join here, then why am I still here?" a resigning Google employee told Gizmodo. "We are actively discussing this important issue internally and with other people as we continue to build safeguards and policies around the development and application of our system learning technology".

Fortune contacted Google for comment about these resignations and will update this post if it responds. "The strongest possible statement I could take against this was to leave".

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