Reports: Google Backs Away From Pentagon Contract Renewal After Worker Resignations


A number of Google employees have reportedly resigned in protest over the cloud giant's cooperation with the Pentagon over the highly-controversial military pilot program, Project Maven. Now, Google -- which is also believed to be pursuing the multi-billion dollar cloud contract -- is reportedly putting its employees concerns to bed.

Google will not renew its contract with the Pentagon for Project Maven, a program that works on speeding up analysis of drone footage by automatically classifying images of objects and people, the New York Times reported on Friday.

Google has reportedly been lending its AI and machine learning technology to the Department of Defense for the purpose of analyzing drone footage, much to the chagrin of some of its employees.

[Related: Pentagon Cloud Contract RFP Process Delayed As Defense Department Cites 'Extensive' Industry Interest]

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On Friday, reports surfaced that Google has lost around a dozen employees because of the company's involvement with Project Maven, which was first unveiled in March by tech news site Gizmodo. The reasons that the employees cited for leaving reportedly include the company's so-called lack of transparency to its employees, ethical concerns over the use of AI for the potential use of drone warfare, and the loss of user trust that could result.

As a rebuttal at the time, Google said that its AI technology covers only non-classified images. ’The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only,’ a spokesperson for the company said in March.

The contract is reportedly up for renewal next year. On Friday, Google Cloud leader Diane Greene told employees that it was backing away from working with the military during a weekly meeting, according to sources familiar with the announcement.

The announcement comes after an open letter was published on Friday calling Google out specifically and asking the company to cease its AI work on Project Maven. The open letter was inked by more than 90 academics in artificial intelligence, ethics, and computer science asking for an international treaty that would put a stop to autonomous weapons systems.

Google is also believed to be angling itself to bid on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure or JEDI cloud contract, alongside rival Amazon Web Services.

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.