Internet giant asked to explain why it pulled out of deal to develop AI technology, but is willing to work with controversial Chinese company

The Pentagon has expressed dismay over Google's refusal to help it develop drone technology. Photo: iStock

The Pentagon has expressed dismay over Google’s refusal to help it develop drone technology. Photo: iStock

21 June, 2018 by

When Google decided against renewing a contract with the US Defense Department, American lawmakers sent a testy letter to the internet giant’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, complaining about what it termed a “strategic partnership” with Chinese smartphone brand Huawei, Digital Trends reported. The letter refers to alleged security concerns over Huawei, adding that it was disappointed “that Google apparently is more willing to support the Chinese Communist Party than the US military.”

The letter asks the company to explain the rationale for its decision to partner with Huawei but not the US military, as well as its plans to “mitigate the grave risks of working with Huawei.”

Google, the letter confirms, has pulled out of the controversial Project Maven deal it made with the Defense Department, which committed it to assisting with the development of artificial intelligence to support drone-strike targeting systems. This triggered a crisis of conscience among Google employees; 4,000 staffers signed a petition urging Pichai to scrap the deal and pledge in writing to never develop warfare technology.

Google tried to pacify critics by claiming the project was non-offensive in nature and would help prevent civilian casualties. However, staffers argued that the same technology could enable an AI system to select human targets. About a dozen Google employees resigned over Project Maven, a major cause of recruitment concern in the extremely competitive world of AI.

Google released a new policy on developing AI technology on June 8, pledging that it will not work on weapons technology. However, it will work with the US military on non-lethal projects.

Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese technology company, have come under heavy fire over alleged privacy and security issues in the US in recent months.