(CBS Local) -- Over 3,000 employees at Google have signed an open letter to the company's leadership urging them to drop out of the Pentagon's project to equip drones with artificial intelligence.
The letter, published by the New York Times, asks Google CEO Sundar Pichai to cancel "Project Maven" and adopt a strict policy of refusing to build warfare technology. "We believe that Google should not be in the business of war," the letter states. "This plan will irreparably damage Google's brand... Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public's trust."
According to company employees, Project Maven is a specialized AI surveillance system that uses "Wide Area Motion Imagery" data captured by military drones to find and track objects for the Department of Defense (DoD).
"Maven is a well publicized DoD project and Google is working on one part of it - specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes," a Google spokesperson wrote in a statement, obtained by Market Watch. "We're actively engaged across the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic... as we continue to develop our policies around the development and use of our machine learning technologies."
A New York Times report on the employee protest states that Google is expected to compete for a multi-billion-dollar contract which will provide cloud services for the DoD. The Pentagon says Project Maven will cost less than $70 million to implement in its first year.
The letter to Mr. Pichai does not indicate if the employees, which reportedly include dozens of Google's senior engineers, will refuse to work on military-funded projects moving forward.
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