Source: U.S. Defense DepartmentSource: U.S. Defense Department

According to recent reports, a number of Google employees have resigned from the company amid its involvement with the military pilot program Project Maven.

The program, which is led by the United States Defense Department, relies on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze drone footage for “interesting” objects.

At the outset of the collaboration, more than 4,000 Google employees had created and signed a petition requesting that Google cease its involvement with the program, stating in the petition, “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.”

Likewise, members of the Tech Workers Coalition and a number of academics have created and signed their own petitions requesting that Google abandon the program.

Established in 2017, Project Maven analyzes and flags footage captured by drones. Once anything of interest is captured, a human analyst reviews the footage.

“People and computers will work symbiotically to increase the ability of weapon systems to detect objects,” said Drew Cukor, chief of the Department of Defense’s Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Function Team in a statement released by the Defense Department.

Responding to the initial backlash, a Google spokesperson said that, “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."

Unhappy that the tech giant hasn’t dissolved the collaboration, the nearly dozen departing employees are reportedly citing lack of transparency and the dismissal of employee apprehension surrounding its involvement with such programs as reasons for leaving the company.

According to the report, “Resigning employees’ frustrations range from particular ethical concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in drone warfare to broader worries about Google’s political decisions — and the erosion of user trust that could result from these actions.”

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com