Google Said to Scrub US Military Deal Protested by Employees

Google Said to Scrub US Military Deal Protested by Employees

Google's internal unrest became the subject of public record back in April, when thousands signed a letter protesting the company's work with the Defense Department.

The announcement was made by Diane Greene, chief executive of Google's cloud business, at a Friday morning all-hands briefing for the Google Cloud team, which is known internally as the "weather report".

While a handful of employees resigned in protest, some were openly advocating the company to cancel the Maven contract, the report said. "Google should not be in the business of war", Meredith Whittaker, a research scientist affiliated with Google and New York University, wrote on Twitter.

Bob Work, the former deputy secretary of defence who launched Project Maven previous year, called Google's decision not to renew the contract "troubling" and anxious it could discourage others in Silicon Valley from working with the military on autonomous technologies that could assist in foreign conflicts and national defence. In addition, another 4,000 employees signed a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai urging him to abandon the program. The report paraphrases Greene as saying that "the backlash has been awful for the company" and that an AI ethics plan would be out next week.

But higher-ups apparently viewed the Project Maven contract as a gateway into future work. Defense is a huge potential market, but many Google employees were appalled that the company might be helping develop tech that could lead to automated drone strikes.

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The online tech magazine said it had obtained internal correspondence showing that high-ranking Googlers had been eagerly anticipating the benefits Maven could bring to the company, and offering up expertise that could boost the Pentagon's eyes-in-the-skies capabilities.

Citing three sources with knowledge of the matter, Gizmodo reports that Google will not seek another contract when the current Project Maven contract expires in 2019.

According to the emails, Google executives saw Maven as a way to pave the way for even larger contracts down the road. The emails also showed plans of eventually expanding revenue from Maven and similar projects to $250 million. Dr. Suchman added, "I suspect they'll continue to look for ways of sustaining their Pentagon relations and spinning them as benign".

Google has been wrestling internally for months with the prospect of military work.

Google, along with the other technology giants, is intimately integrated into the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus.