Over the past few months, Google has attracted criticism for its involvement in 'Project Maven.' The news broke in March that Google was working with the United States Department of Defense to develop artificial intelligence for analyzing footage from military drones. Google downplayed its involvement in the program, saying it was only helping the DoD use the company's open-source TensorFlow software.
The news sparked outrage in the tech community, and even inside Google. Thousands of employees signed a petition asking Sundar Pichai to end the company's involvement in Project Maven, and dozens resigned in protest. According to Gizmodo, Google hoped Proejct Maven would open the door for more lucrative government contracts:
But internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo show that executives viewed Project Maven as a golden opportunity that would open doors for business with the military and intelligence agencies. The emails also show that Google and its partners worked extensively to develop machine learning algorithms for the Pentagon, with the goal of creating a sophisticated system that could surveil entire cities.
[...] Google intended to build a “Google-earth-like” surveillance system that would allow Pentagon analysts to “click on a building and see everything associated with it” and build graphs of objects like vehicles, people, land features, and large crowds for “the entire city,” states one email recapping a Maven kickoff meeting with Pentagon representatives. Google’s artificial intelligence would bring “an exquisite capability” for “near-real time analysis,” the email said.
It appears Google has finally conceded, as Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced today in a company meeting that the Project Maven contract will not be renewed after it expires in 2019. Google announced in April that it was drafting a set of ethical principles for how its AI will be used, and Greene said the plans will be released next week.