Monday, 04 June 2018 08:24

Google not to renew drone work, but no assurance on future deals Featured

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Google has told its staff that it will not renew its deal with the Pentagon to work on Project Maven, a project which provides the military with AI technology to better identify images on the battlefield.

But the company gave no assurance that it would not get involved in similar projects in the future, The Intercept  reported.

The company said it would work on Maven until the end of 2019, but the 18-month-old contract would not be renewed.

The announcement was made by Google's cloud chief Diane Greene, at a Friday morning all-hands briefing known internally as the weather report".

Google is trying to win a US$10 billion cloud deal with the Department of Defence which is to be awarded before the end of the year. However, many of the company's employees believe there would be strong objections to providing cloud services to support combat operations.

The company got involved in the Maven project due to its close connections with the Defence Innovation Board through Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of its parent company, Alphabet.

Schmidt was appointed as chairman of the Board in March 2016.

Last week, leaked emails from Google showed that Project Maven would have earned the company up to US$250 million a year, much above the US$15 million figure that was initially made public.

A month after news of the project became public, the Pentagon provided another US$100 million towards the program.

Staff at Google had expressed disquiet over the company's involvement in the project. More than 3000 staff signed a letter submitted to senior management to protest against the decision to get involved in Maven.

In May, a dozen workers quit Google, expressing concern over the use of AI in drone warfare and the company's political decisions and the degree to which the trust of users would be eroded by this decision.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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