Google will not be renewing the contract for Project Maven, a controversial drone artificial intelligence imaging program in partnership with the Pentagon, after it expires in March 2019.
Google Cloud CEO Diane Green said during a weekly meeting with employees on Friday that the company would be backing away from its involvement with the US military, according to a report written by the New York Times over the weekend.
She added that if given the choice today, Google would not have pursued Maven as a result of the backlash that it has received both internally and from members of the public.
Since the project was announced in March, about 4,000 Google employees have signed a petition demanding clearer policy that “neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology”, with dozens more staff resigning altogether in protest.
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In newer reports published by tech site Gizmodo last night, internal emails have shown that senior executives at Google Cloud saw Maven as a golden opportunity to open doors for military and intelligence contracts, but were deeply concerned about how the companys involvement would be viewed.
The emails also showed the extent of Mavens scope and cost, which had the goal of developing sophisticated machine learning algorithms that would enable the Pentagon and its drones to surveil entire cities, Google Earth-style. If successful it would reportedly affect other contracts that Google hoped to win with government agencies, while Mavens future budget could potentially balloon to the size of up to $250m (£187m).
Google is expected to produce a set of principles on which to guide its future decisions in the use of AI for defence and intelligence contracting, which according to Greene are to be announced next week.