Google backs off from Pentagon project after uproar

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Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google will not renew a contract to help the US military analyse aerial drone imagery when it expires in March, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday, as the company moves to defuse internal uproar over the deal.

The Pentagon contract, known as Project Maven, has sparked uproar internally at Google. The decision was announced by Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene at a meeting with employees Friday morning, it said.

Leaked emails from Google, and obtained by the Intercept, show that the technology company's project with the USA military-Project Maven-was much bigger than it promised its employees.

Google is dealing with the employee unrest stemming from the Project Maven contract.

Project Maven has been a source of tension within Google.

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Word of Google's involvement in the research prompted thousands of employees to sign an internal letter in protest; a dozen reportedly went so far to resign.

According to the emails, Google executives saw Maven as a way to pave the way for even larger contracts down the road.

While Google claims it will not renew the contract, it will be involved with the project for the rest of the year, and will continue to deepen its intimate collaboration with the Pentagon.

In the end, Google did not promote its work on Maven, but The Intercept said the Google team agreed that the firm should work to agree a "narrative" as quickly as possible.

"Google management is finally recognizing that their workforce will not let this issue slide, but TWC is skeptical that internal rules will substantially alter their position in regards to military contracts", a TWC representative said in an email to Fast Company.

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Google Cloud's chief scientist, Fei-Fei Li, had written in a September email that the company should do "good PR" on its work for the Defense Department, and make sure to keep the AI aspect of it secret, Gizmodo reported. The source said Google would soon release new company principles related to the ethical uses of AI. The other bidders for the contract included Amazon and IBM.

"It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the relationship between a prime and sub-prime contractor holder", explained a Department of Defense spokeswoman, in a statement emailed to Fox News.

Selling cloud computing services, including the object detection tool being used with drone footage, is one of the top areas Google is counting on to diversify revenue.

That promise has already been met with skepticism by the Tech Workers Coalition, a group calling for Silicon Valley companies "to stay out of the business of war" and develop ethics standards for AI.

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