Google scrubs United States military contract following protest by employees

The Google logo at its headquarters building in Brussels

The Google logo at its headquarters building in Brussels

GOOGLE will not seek to extend its contract next year with the US Department of Defence for artificial intelligence used to analyse drone video, squashing a controversial alliance that had raised alarms over the technological build-up between Silicon Valley and the military. According to several internal emails obtained by reporter Kate Conger, Google officials were optimistic that working on Project Maven could open the doors to much more lucrative contracts with the US military and intelligence agencies, including a reputed $10 billion cloud computing contract, which several large tech companies have put in bids for.

Google was anxious it could get negative press because of Maven, and that the company's involvement with the project would taint its reputation, the leaked emails suggest. But a number of outlets report Google employees worry about using AI in warfare and that last month, over 3,000 employees at the company signed an open letter opposing Google's involvement. Company executives have defended the contract, saying its cloud computing and data analysis tools were being used for non-offensive tasks and would help save lives.

This was apparently the first time that Google suffered "mass resignations" in protest against one of the company's business decisions. If successful it would reportedly affect other contracts that Google hoped to win with government agencies, while Maven's future budget could potentially balloon to the size of up to $250m (£187m). But and Microsoft have won far more cloud business. It was launched in April 2017 by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work.

The email was shared with the Maven Conscientious Objectors and Reuters viewed it on the group's online forum.

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about Greene's comments. "Therefore, we ask that Project Maven be canceled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology". Although most of the tech majors were interested in pursuing the AI project, and partner with the Pentagon.

Latest News