Google to end controversial military contract after employee backlash

Google is reported to be ending its controversial defence contract with the US Department of Defence amidst employee backlash that saw 12 employees quitting the company over the controversy and over 3,000 signing a letter in protest.

Google will not renew its contract with the Pentagon for its work on the project, known as Project Maven, a US Department of Defence initiative that aims to use artificial intelligence to analyse drone footage, when its current contract ends in 2019.
According to Gizmodo, Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene told employees about the decision in a meeting on 1 June. She said the backlash to the project had been bad for the company (See: In a first, Google employees quitting in protest against defence involvement). 
She also reportedly said that Google made the decision to take on the contract at a time when it was “more aggressively pursuing military work.” 
Earlier, Google had tried to play down the significance of the project, saying that the work would not be used to operate drones or launch weapons and that Google has only been providing open-source software.
The contract is also not financially lucrative with reports suggesting its value at around $15 million, although, in the future this figure could grow to $250 million.
Project Maven has been controversial amongst Google employees, especially as it tended to involve the use of AI in warfare, which is one of the most controversial uses of the technology.
Google was also worried about the potential public reaction to the contract.
A report in The New York Times also suggested that Google has been cautious in mentioning AI in emails to officials and that AI experts had warned Google officials to avoid “at all costs any mention or implication of AI”
Google is also reportedly working on a set of guidelines to direct its AI work with the military, which could include a ban on the use of AI in weaponry.
Google’s giving up the contract, however, would not end the project as it only leaves the door open to other tech giants, including Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, who were reportedly interested in the project.