About a dozen Google employees have resigned in protest of the tech giant's involvement in an artificial intelligence (AI) collaboration with the U.S. military, in which Google is participating to develop new kinds of drone technology.
The employees are resigning due to the ethical concerns they have over Google’s expertise being used in military technology that could lead to the loss of human life. https://t.co/15MAyMfR9R
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) May 15, 2018
"At some point, I realized I could not in good faith recommend anyone join Google, knowing what I knew," one of the workers told Gizmodo. "I realized if I can't recommend people join here, then why am I still here?"
The resignations follow Google's failure to alter course despite approximately 4,000 of its employees signing a petition that urgesGoogle to abandon its work with Project Maven, a Pentagon program focused on the targeting systems of the military's armed drones. The company is reportedly contributing artificial intelligence technology to the program.
"We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties," wrote the employees in the petition. "Google's stated values make this clear: Every one of our users is trusting us. Never jeopardize that. Ever. This contract puts Google's reputation at risk and stands in direct opposition to our core values. Building this technology to assist the U.S. Government in military surveillance—and potentially lethal outcomes—is not acceptable."
The petition has also gained the support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC).
"We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties...Building this technology to assist the U.S. Government in military surveillance—and potentially lethal outcomes—is not acceptable." —Google employees
"Companies like Google, as well as their counterparts around the world, must consider the consequences and demand real accountability and standards of behaviour from the military agencies that seek their expertise—and from themselves," said Cindy Cohn and Peter Eckersley of EFF last month.
The petition stressed that "Google should not be in the business of war" and demanded that executives draft and release a clear policy stating that "neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology"—warning that a failure to do so would harm Google's ability to attract and retain talent. The resignation of several employees indicates a new level of commitment among some workers regarding their objections to the project.
The employees who have decided to leave Google were praised on social media for their "ethical activism” on Wednesday.
A dozen Google employees resigned in protest over its involvement in military contracts using machine intelligence to control drones. This is some sterling ethical activism and should be getting more press: https://t.co/7UMohMzDtg
— Laurie Voss (@seldo) May 14, 2018
— Chris Paine (@chrispaine) May 16, 2018
Respect for those who put ethics above profit: a dozen Google employees quit over military drone project https://t.co/01LjTPviib
— Gabriele Svelto (@gabrielesvelto) May 16, 2018
Those who think that ethical approaches to business are a "nice-to-have" may be surprised by the resignations at #Google over #ProjectMaven. Smart companies will use #ethics as a competitive advantage, to win the best talent. But t…https://t.co/E7IgTi7fy2 https://t.co/OJfFqYbjwb
— Tom Upchurch (@t_upchurch) May 15, 2018