After facing employee fury over a US Defence Department project, Google is reportedly drafting new ethical standards to guide the company’s use of technology and products.
The move comes after more than 3,000 employees of Google signed a letter to the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai, demanding that the company scrap the Defence Department project for analysing drone footage using Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques as they feared that the technology could plausibly help target people for death, Fortune.com reported on Friday. Citing a Defense One article, the report said that Google Cloud chief Diane Greene this week hosted a Town Hall at which she assured employees of new ethical standards for the company.
Called Maven, the programme applies AI and machine learning to the job of classifying objects in surveillance footage, but Google responded to the employee petition saying that the technology was intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work.
However, Greene promised employees that Google would not sign up for any further work on ‘Maven’ or similar projects without having new ethical principles in place, according to Defense One’s sources. But some Google employees came out of the town hall still concerned about the company angling for a big Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract that could relate to combat operations, the Fortune report said. IANS
Google CEO Sundar Pichai insisted Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee that he runs the U.S. technology giant without political preference.
“We find that we have a wide variety of sources, including sources from the left and sources from the right. And we are committed to making sure there are diverse perspectives,” Pichai told the panel.
Pichai defended the company after accusations from Republican lawmakers that Google has developed online search algorithms to suppress conservative voices.
“There are numerous allegations in the news that Google employees have thought about doing this, talked about doing this and have done it,” Republican committee chairman Robert Goodlatte said.
Republican Congressman Lamar Smith cited a study by P.J. Media that concluded 96 percent of Google’s search results for President Donald Trump were from “liberal media outlets.”
“In fact, not a single right-leaning site appeared on the first page of search results. This doesn’t happen by accident but is baked into the algorithms. Those who write the algorithms get the results they must want and apparently management allows it.”
Smith also cited a study by “Harvard-trained psychologist” Robert Epstein that said Google’s alleged bias “likely swung” more than 2.5 million votes to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
“Google could well elect the next president with dire implications for our democracy,” Smith added.
“I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” Pichai said. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests.”
Top committee Democrat Jerry Nadler said Republican accusations of bias is “a completely illegitimate issue, which is the fantasy dreamed up by some conservatives that Google and other online platforms have an anti-conservative bias. As I’ve said repeatedly, no credible evidence supports this right-wing conspiracy theory.”
President Donald Trump is among those who have accused the company of censoring conservative content, tweeting in August that Google is “RIGGED” and that “Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out.”
Pichai’s testimony came after he angered committee members in September by declining an invitation to testify about manipulation of online services by foreign governments to influence U.S. elections.
The CEO was also questioned about the company’s planned “Dragonfly” project, a censored search engine for China and “next generation technology” that Congressman Smith said Google is “developing on Chinese soil.”
“This news raises a troubling possibility, that Google is being used to strengthen China’s system of surveillance, repression and control,” Smith said. “We need to know that Google is on the side of the free world, and that it will provide its services free of anti-competitive behavior, political bias and censorship.”
An international group of 60 human rights and media groups submitted a letter Tuesday to Pichai, calling on him to abandon the project, warning that personal data would not be safe from Chinese authorities.