Thousands of Google employees have signed a petition calling on CEO Sundar Pichai to exit a partnership on artificial intelligence with the U.S. Department of Defense. Google’s involvement with Project Maven was first reported last month, the company will reportedly be helping the Pentagon use artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage. Despite assurances that its involvement is limited to non-combat users, Google employees want the company to take a step back.
The New York Times reports that more than 3,100 Google employees have signed a petition. It was floated through Google’s internal communications systems for a few weeks. The petition doesn’t doubt the company’s assurance that its work will be limited to non-combat use but highlights the possibility that the military could repurpose Google’s technology for combat use once it’s delivered.
Google explained to the scribe that the Pentagon will use “open-source object recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer” based on unclassified data. The technology would be used to flag images captured by drones for human review.
“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” reads the very first line of the petition, calling on CEO Sundar Pichai to cancel Project Maven. It also wants the company to “draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.”
Others have voiced concerns that simply the association with the military is going to have a negative impact on Google’s reputation particularly at a time when the public hasn’t really been warming up to artificial intelligence.