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Project Maven: Nearly a dozen Google employees have reportedly quit in protest

Project Maven: Nearly a dozen Google employees have reportedly quit in protest

Video: Google's Zak Stone on TPUs and the evolution of AI accelerators.

This was not an issue at Google earlier, considering its open work culture that allows employees to voice their opinions while making product decisions.

In the intervening months, employees say, nothing has changed, prompting 4,000 Google employees to sign an internal petition opposing the partnership, and about a dozen to resign in protest.

More than 90 academics and researchers have joined the chorus of criticism, signing an open letter on Monday against Google's part in weaponizing AI.

Project Maven helps process aerial drone footage using artificial intelligence (AI) to spy on vehicles and even follow people as they come and go in and out of buildings.

Responding to the petition and resignations, a Google spokesperson told the Daily Express that the technology being developed under the Project Maven programme "is used to flag images for human review and is meant to save lives". The company's present corporate code of conduct is now "Do the right thing", something many employees Google believe it's not doing. In their letter, the researchers have not only asked the company executives to terminate its contract with the USA military but also urged them to join other AI researchers and tech executive to call for an worldwide treaty prohibiting autonomous weapon systems. Earlier today we reported that Google was being investigated in Australia over the claims that it was harvesting data from millions of Android users who were unknowingly paying the telecos for gigabytes of data used during data harvesting.

The pressure from employees, however, seem to do little in swaying Google's intent in continuing its work on Project Maven and also being the lead contender for another Pentagon cloud computing contract called Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI). Essentially, the company was using machine-learning algorithms to help military drones.

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The employees who are resigning in protest say that executives have become less transparent with their workforce about controversial business decisions and seem less interested in listening to workers' objections than they once did.

Gizmodo initially reported that Google's participation prompted ethical concern and anger among employees.

Nevertheless, Google's part in the project has been widely criticized within the company.

The letter continued: "Google has moved into military work without subjecting itself to public debate or deliberation, either domestically or internationally".

"We are also deeply concerned about the possible integration of Google's data on people's everyday lives with military surveillance data, and its combined application to targeted killing", said the letter.

ZDNet has asked Google for comment and will update the story if it receives one.