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Former US Defense Official Questions Google’s Morality

Google announced earlier this month that it would not renew its contract for Project Maven

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Gmail product manager Paul Lambert said a company research scientist discovered the problem in January VOA

A former top U.S. Defense Department official is questioning the morality of Google’s decision not to renew a partnership with the Pentagon.

“I believe the Google employees have created a moral hazard for themselves,” former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said Tuesday.

Google announced earlier this month that it would not renew its contract for Project Maven, after 13 employees resigned and more than 4,600 employees signed a petition objecting to their work being used for warfare.

Project Maven seeks to use artificial intelligence, or AI, to help detect and identify images captured using drones.

Many of the Google employees who objected to the project cited Google’s principle of ensuring its products are not used to do harm. But Work, who served as deputy defense secretary from 2014 through July 2017, described Google’s thinking as short-sighted. “It might wind up with us taking a shot, but it could easily save lives” he told an audience at the Defense One Tech Summit in Washington.

Work also described Google as hypocritical, given the company’s endeavors with other countries, such as China. “Google has opened an AI [artificial intelligence] center in China,” he said. “Anything that’s going on in the AI center in China is going to the Chinese government and then will ultimately end up in the hands of the Chinese military.”

The Pentagon’s Project Maven was approved under Work’s watch in 2016 had an initial budget of about $70 million. Google officials had told employees the company was earning less than $10 million, though the deal could lead to additional work.

Current military officials have declined to comment on Google’s decision to not renew the contract, explaining the tech giant is not the main contractor.

“It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the relationship between a prime and sub-prime contractor holder,” Pentagon spokeswoman, Maj. Audricia Harris told VOA in an email.

“We value all of our relationships with academic institutions and commercial companies involved with Project Maven,” she added. “Partnering with the best universities and commercial companies in the world will help preserve the United States’ critical lead in artificial intelligence.” VOA has asked Google for a response, but has received no reply.

While declining to comment directly on Google and Project Maven, the executive director of the Defense Innovation Board said the hope is that, eventually, ethical consideration will push tech companies to work with the military.

“AI [artificlal intelligence] done properly is really, really dangerous,” said Josh Marcuse “We want to work with these companies, these engineers.”

“We are going to have to defend these democracies against adversaries or competitors who see the world every differently,” he said at the same conference in Washington as Work. “I don’t want to show up with a dumb weapon on a smart battlefield.”

But experts say questions of ethics and business viability are likely to continue to plague Google and otherbig tech companies who are asked to work with the Pentagon.

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google. Pixabay

“Their customer base is not just the United States,” said Heather Roff with the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge. “Aiding the U.S. defense industry will potentially hinder their economic success or viability in other countries.”

Still, Paul Scharre, a former Defense Department official who worked on emerging technologies, said he was disappointed by Google’s decision.

“There are weapons companies that build weapons – I understand why Google might not want to be part of that,” said Scharre, now with the Center for a New American Security.

Also read: Google Doodle Celebrates Legendary Indian Artist Gauhar Jaan’s 145th Birth Anniversary

“I don’t think Project Maven crosses the line at all,” he added. “It’s clearly not a weapons technology. It’s helping people better understand the battle space. If you are only worried about civilian and collateral damage that’s only good.” (VOA)

 

Next Story

Google Announces to Pay $1 Million for Finding Bugs in Pixel Phones

Software giant Microsoft has also announced its Azure Security Lab, intended to give experts a sandbox-like safe environment to test its Cloud security services better. The company also doubled the top Azure bug bounty reward for researchers to $40,000

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Google has announced to pay $1 million as top award to security researchers who can find a unique bug in its Pixel series of smartphones that may compromise users’ data.

There is an additional 50 per cent bonus if a security researcher is able to find an exploit on “specific developer preview versions of Android”, resulting in a prize of $1.5 million.

The Google Bug Bounty programme will reward the top prize to someone who can break into Google’s Titan M “secure element.”

Similar to Apple’s “iPhone Secure Elementa, “Titan M” is a security chip that automatically scans hackers trying to load malware when an Android phone is turned on.

For the new reward category, Google is looking for “full chain remote code execution exploit with persistence which compromises the Titan M secure element on Pixel devices.”

“We will reward extra for a full exploit chain (typically multiple vulnerabilities chained together) that demonstrates arbitrary code execution, data exfiltration, or a lockscreen bypass,” said Google.

When Google first introduced its bug bounty programme for Android, the biggest bug bounty reward was $38,000.

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Google Pixel XL smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

Security researchers this week identified that camera in Google Pixel smartphones can easily spy on you.

According to Erez Yalon and Pedro Umbelino, security researchers at cyber security firm Checkmarx, they found that vulnerabilities impact the camera apps of smartphone vendors like Google Pixel and some Samsung devices in the Android ecosystem, presenting significant implications to hundreds-of-millions of smartphone users.

After a detailed analysis of the Google Camera app, the team found that by manipulating specific actions and intents, an attacker can control the app to take photos and/or record videos through a rogue application that has no permissions to do so.

Google has now matched Apple in rewarding bug hunters.

Apple is planning to supply special iPhones to security researchers to help them tackle malicious hackers before they trespass or damage systems and to discover flaws and vulnerabilities better.

Also Read: Facebook Willing to Make Some Changes in its Political Ad Policies

Researchers with a security research track record of high-quality systems on any platform are eligible to apply and they could end up earning a maximum payout of $1 million.

Apple launched its bug bounty programme three years ago at the Black Hat conference and is now extending its use to cover macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and more.

Software giant Microsoft has also announced its Azure Security Lab, intended to give experts a sandbox-like safe environment to test its Cloud security services better. The company also doubled the top Azure bug bounty reward for researchers to $40,000. (IANS)