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Google’s connection to the Pentagon sparks staff protest

Do you remember what Google’s motto is? If you’re a techie type, you’ll know that its philosophy is summed up by the phrase “Don’t be Evil”. But many Google employees now believe that the company is going against its ethos by helping a Pentagon programme.

More than 3000 staff are thought to have signed a letter to Google boss Sundar Pichai, demanding that the company stops supporting the US Department of Defense’s Project Maven.

The military programme started a year ago, and it uses a Google artificial intelligence system to analyse large amounts of footage captured by the American army. The project uses drones in the surveillance of countries, and some of the data is likely to be used in the execution of airstrikes.

In this blog from Blue Whale Media, the web design Warrington based agency, we’ll look at the reasons for the protest and what Google has said in reply.

What Does The Protest Letter Say?

The New York Times has published a copy of the letter. It says: “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.

“Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicise and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.”

The letter also says: “Google’s unique history, its motto Don’t Be Evil, and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart.

“We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties.”

What Is TensorFlow?

At our Warrington web design agency we’re fascinated by any debates surrounding the ethical use of technology. So we’re keen to tell you more about the software at the heart of this discussion. 

The technology being used by the Pentagon is called TensorFlow. It is open source software, often utilised in machine learning applications. It allows computers to be taught how to study video footage, so that objects can be identified.

As a result, it can recognise cars and trees, for instance, and then present significant results to military analysts who can then carry out further investigations. In short, it helps to filter a large amount of data, and highlight areas of interest.

What Does Google Say In Reply

The technology giant has issued a statement saying it had “long worked with government agencies to provide technology solutions”.

“The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only. Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns.

“We’re actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies.”

In its defence, Google also highlighted that it’s not the only company working with the military – others include Amazon and Microsoft.

It also said that its algorithms were not utilised for face detection.

Blue Whale Media, the web design Warrington based agency, takes a keen interest in technology news. We feel that our broad knowledge is bound to be useful when it comes to designing and writing impressive websites.

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