Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Business | By Kate Woods

Google employees quit in protest against cooperation with the Pentagon

Google employees quit in protest against cooperation with the Pentagon

Google have historically promoted an open culture that encourages employees to discuss decisions about the products.

In the case of Maven Google is helping the Ministry of defence to implement machine learning for the classification of images collected by unmanned aerial vehicles.

Since all the employees spoke to Gizmodo anonymously, we haven't been able to independently confirm the report. Following Google's continued involvement with this, employees are now resigning from the company. In the intervening months, employees say, nothing has changed, prompting 4,000 Google employees to sign an internal petition opposing the partnership, and about a dozen to resign in protest. Their reasons for resigning range from absence of transparency to ethical concerns.

"Actions speak louder than words, and that's a standard I hold myself to as well", another resigning employee told Gizmodo.

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For its part, Google says that its Pentagon contract is only a test and that it covers non-classified images.

A spokesperson said: "The technology is used to flag images for human review and is meant to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work". "Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns".

"We're actively engaged across the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic and also with outside experts, as we continue to develop our policies around the development and use of our machine learning technologies". The Cambridge Analytica scandal demonstrates growing public concern over allowing the tech industries to wield so much power. In addition to the Google-specific internal petition, there is a broader petition targeting IBM, Microsoft, Amazon and Google, created by tech workers who "believe that tech companies should not be in the business of war".

While the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM are also working closely with the Pentagon, for example, over 30 technology companies - including Facebook and Microsoft, but not Amazon, Apple, or Alphabet - signed an Accord earlier this year stating that they would refuse to aid any government, including the USA, in carrying out cyber attacks. "They also signal a failure to engage with global civil society and diplomatic institutions that have already highlighted the ethical stakes of these technologies".

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Google has offered no official response to the petition or the resignations.

If not, you'd better start by reading this story from April.

According to the Pentagon, the project aims to develop and integrate "computer-vision algorithms needed to help military and civilian analysts encumbered by the sheer volume of full-motion video data that Department of Defense collects every day in support of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations".

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