Google reported to stop working on Maven, its government-licensed AI tech

The announcement was reportedly made by Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene, who said Google won't renew its project contract after the current one expires next year.

The contract was reported to be worth less than $10 million to Google, but was thought to have potential to lead to more lucrative technology collaborations with the military. Greene said Google chose to work on Project Maven "at a time when Google was more aggressively pursuing military work", Gizmodo reported. The work, which involves providing artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage for the government, has been highly controversial and included many employees quitting in protest. In April, more than 3,000 Google employees pushed back against the project, signing a petition calling for the company to end its work with the Pentagon. The source said Google would soon release new company principles related to the ethical uses of AI. The Outline has contacted Google for comment as to why there is not a similar ban on the military use of Google Earth.

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.

A senior Google scientist once warned in an email that winning a military artificial-intelligence contract would spark a controversy beyond the company's control.

But Google didn't have it-so it had to rely on other geospatial imagery for its early work on Project Maven.

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In the course of the contract, Google contributed TensorFlow, its open-source AI framework, to the Pentagon.

Furious staff members have flooded message boards, attended fractious meetings, created anti-Maven stickers, and resigned in protest. Google's contract accounted for only a small part of Project Maven's technical ambitions, and other companies work on similar image-recognition software that could potentially be deployed as an alternative. "We value all of our relationships with academic institutions and commercial companies involved with Project Maven".

Some Google employees, whose skills are in high demand, had organised resistance campaigns or threatened to leave.

"The technology is used to flag images for human review and is meant to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work", the company said back in April.

The online tech magazine said it had obtained internal correspondence showing that high-ranking Googlers had been eagerly anticipating the benefits Maven could bring to the company, and offering up expertise that could boost the Pentagon's eyes-in-the-skies capabilities.

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