Google Reportedly Won’t Renew Project Maven Drone DOD Contract After Backlash
At a meeting with employees on Friday dubbed the "Weather Report", Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene broke the news saying that Google will not renew its contract once it expires in 2019. The meeting, which were first reported by Gizmodo, made it clear that Google had actively been trying to secure military contract, which can often be quite lucrative.
How lucrative? Despite Greene recently telling employees that Project Maven would be a relatively small contract bringing in $9 million in revenue, internal emails revealed that it would actually bring in up to $250 million per year in revenue. However, to many employees, company ethics should come before a financial windfall, and over a dozen employees decided to resign because of the Project Maven. Over 4,000 employees signed an open letter urging Google CEO Sundar Pichai to shelve the program and be more open about the company’s involvement in military programs.
Those voices have been heard loud and clear. It should be noted, however, that the internal backlash coupled with negative press was predicted by the Google Cloud team.
"I don't know what would happen if the media starts picking up a theme that Google is secretly building AI weapons or AI technologies to enable weapons for the Defense industry," wrote Google Cloud scientist Dr. Fei-Fei Li in recently revealed email exchanges. "Google Cloud has been building our theme on Democratizing AI in 2017, and [we] have been talking about Humanistic AI for enterprise. I'd be super careful to protect these very positive images."
Project Maven uses Google's incredible artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to analyze footage retrieved from drones to identify buildings, vehicles and other structures to aid in [potential] weapon strikes. According to Gizmodo, internal emails showed that Google was attempting to enhance Project Maven with "Google Earth-like" surveillance capabilities for "near-real time analysis" of entire cities.