Google Employees Quit to Protest Company's Role in Killing Machines

MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle

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

Close to a dozen employees at Google Inc. have apparently quit their jobs in protest over a project in which the company is providing the U.S. Department of Defense with artificial intelligence. The company's present corporate code of conduct is now "Do the right thing", something many employees Google believe it's not doing.

The more than 400 academics from around the world who signed an open letter published yesterday are supporting Google employees against Project Maven. "Over the last couple of months, I've been less and less impressed with the response and the way people's concerns are being treated and listened to", an anonymous employee who left told Gizmodo.

In addition, the signees demand to regulate the activities of Google in such a way that neither she, nor any of its contractors could participate in projects for the development of military technologies in the future. "I was not happy, but the strongest possible statement I could make against it, was to leave", - commented the decision of one of the departed employees.

Staff are upset about a variety of aspects, from particular ethical worries about the use of AI in drone attacks to the tech giant's political decisions in a broader sense. "And if I can no longer recommend other people to this company, why am I still here?" - quoted by Gizmodo, one of the dismissed employees.

News of the project spread within the company in February and at the time a spokesperson said a policy document was on the way, but sources say that has yet to be circulated. Essentially, the company was using machine-learning algorithms to help military drones. Over 90 academics in the spheres of ethics, AI, and computer science this week published an open letter asking that Google back an worldwide treaty prohibiting autonomous weapons systems, and ceases work with the United States military.

In April, thousands of Google staff signed a letter asking the company to pull out of "Project Maven", which involves supplying machine learning technology to the DoD to help identify and flag images for human review from thousands of hours of drone footage taken in Iraq and Syria.

"We are at a critical moment".

Still members of the tech industry are concerned. "This has shone only one spotlight on the increasingly high stakes of information technology infrastructures, and the inadequacy of current national and worldwide governance frameworks to safeguard public trust", the letter concluded.

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

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