Google, Big Tech and the US War Machine in the Global South

Photo by Robert Scoble | CC BY 2.0

The recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica fiasco deepened public concern about the political power and allegiances of Big Tech corporations. Soon after the story went viral, 3,100 Google employees submitted a petition to Google CEO Sundar Pichai protesting Google’s involvement in a Pentagon program called “Project Maven”.

Last week, the Tech Worker’s Coalition launched a petition protesting tech industry participation in development for war, urging Google to break its contract with the Department of Defense (DoD).  Will Pichai respond?

Google has a lot to answer for.  In March 2016, then US Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, tapped then Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt to chair the DoD’s new Innovation Advisory Board.  The Board would give the Pentagon access to “the brightest technical minds focused on innovation” –  culled from Silicon Valley.

More recently, details about Project Maven emerged.  The project uses machine learning and deep learning to develop an AI-based computer vision solution for military drone targeting.  This innovative system turns reams of visual data – obtained from surveillance drones – into “actionable intelligence at insight speed.”

Because there are many more hours of surveillance footage than a team of humans can view, most of the footage cannot be evaluated by Pentagon workers.  Using AI, Project Maven steps in to make sure no footage goes unwatched.  The AI performs analytics…

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