Google has signed a contract providing AI technology to the US Department of Defence (DoD), a move slammed by commentators as Google has long kept away from any association with the military industrial complex.
Over the past 10 years of records available on USAspending.gov, show about a dozen public contracts between Google and the DoD. The contracts without exception are all inconsequential: $10,000 for access to Google Earth, or $6,000 for Google's search hardware.
Though not a part of google's bylaws, commentators point out that for a company at the leading edge of tech innovation, this aloofness from military contracts is remarkable. Microsoft, for instance, has hundreds of contracts with the DoD over the past 10 years, including a $78-million multi-year consulting deal with the Air Force.
In 2013, when Google acquired the robotics company Boston Dynamics, it publicly stated that while it would honour Boston Dynamics' existing military contracts, Google would not pursue new work with the DoD and that it did not plan to become a military contractor.
Google later sold Boston Dynamics, and it is not engaged in building robots for the military.
According to a report from Gizmodo, Google is partnering with the DoD on building drone software in a project that will reportedly apply Google's usual machine learning prowess to identify objects in drone footage.
Google's involvement in the project was not public but, apparently, internal discussion at Google, about it leaked last week.
The project named "Project Maven," also known as the "Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT)" started in April of last year with a mission to ''accelerate DoD's integration of big data and machine learning.''
According to a press release by DoD on Project Maven, the project aims to help deal with the "millions of hours of video" the military collects.