Wednesday July 17, 2019
Home Lead Story Former US Def...

Former US Defense Official Questions Google’s Morality

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

0
//
Google, smart compose
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.

google
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 Maps Now Adding Support for Bike-sharing Stations

Besides, the search engine giant has introduced features like Augmented Reality (AR) navigation feature and off-route alert feature on Maps as well

0
google, online tracking
A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

To make Maps more useful for users, Google is adding support for bike-sharing stations to let people be informed on docked bike sharing services near them.

The feature has been testing in New York City for the last year and is now expanding to 23 more cities including Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Chicago, London and Los Angeles among others, The Verge reported on Tuesday.

The new integration is made possible from data provided by Ito World, which provides information on where to find a bike-sharing station, how many bikes are available there and whether or not there’s a space waiting for you to dock your bike when you arrive at your destination.

The feature is being rolled out to Android, as well as iOS devices and even though the feature has not reached India as yet, Google plans to expand the feature to other countries shortly.

On a similar issue, on December 2018, Google Maps gained a feature to direct users towards shared Lime scooters and bikes, the report said.

google maps
Google Maps is flooded by about 11 million false listings and phone numbers that reroute to competing businesses. Pixabay

Since the beginning of 2019, Google has been testing and introducing several new features on Maps.

After running tests in the US and elsewhere, earlier in May, Google rolled out speed limits and mobile radar locations in over 40 countries, including India.

Also Read: Here’s Why Instagram Users Want to ‘Throw Away’ the App Now

In July 2019, Maps also added more than 45,000 community and public toilets as part of the Central government’s “Loo Review” campaign that covers 1,700 cities in India.

Besides, the search engine giant has introduced features like Augmented Reality (AR) navigation feature and off-route alert feature on Maps as well. (IANS)