Google employees ask CEO Sundar Pichai to pull out of Project Maven, a US DoD project for enabling drone warfare

Project Maven uses Google's TensorFlow software and image-recognition algorithms to scan through millions of hours of drone footage.


A month after Google began working with the US Department of Defense on drone software, a venture dubbed Project Maven, as many as 3,100 Google employees have signed a letter urging CEO Sundar Pichai to cancel the project.

 Google employees ask CEO Sundar Pichai to pull out of Project Maven, a US DoD project for enabling drone warfare

The Google logo. Reuters

In the letter obtained by The New York Times, Google employees claim that they want Pichai to re-evaluate Google's involvement “in the business of war”, which they strictly do not want to be associated with.

According to a report by ArsTechnica, Project Maven, is essentially a research initiative to develop computer vision algorithms that can analyze drone footage. The project uses Google's TensorFlow software and image-recognition algorithms to scan through millions of hours of drone footage collected by the military and use the information to identify people and objects of interest.

The letter goes on to state, "Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public’s trust.The argument that other firms, like Microsoft and Amazon, are also participating doesn’t make this any less risky for Google. Google’s unique history, its motto 'Don’t Be Evil' and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart."

Diane Greene, the head of Google’s cloud operation had already described its work on Project Maven as “non-offensive", however, employees decided to escalate things by addressing a formal letter to the CEO.

A Google spokesperson responding to the letter stated, "Maven is a well-publicized DoD project, and Google is working on one part of it — specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes and using open-source object-recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer."


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