Published: Fri, March 09, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Google Wants to Make Military Spy Drones Even Smarter

Google Wants to Make Military Spy Drones Even Smarter

Looks like it is in for some more criticism after it was discovered that the Mountain View-based firm is working with the US Department of Defence (DoD) and is helping it develop artificial intelligence to analyse drone footage.

A spokeswoman for Google said that the tie-up involved the provision of software tools to let the US Department of Defense (DoD) make use of its TensorFlow machine learning code. But the drones collect so much footage that it's almost impossible for a human to properly analyze it all. After Gizmodo approached Google for comment, a spokesperson acknowledged that it's providing the military with APIs to help it use AI to detect objects in video footage. Others point out that the project raises important issues in the field of development and use of machine training.

Although Google's former chairman Eric Schmidt became an advisor to the Pentagon in 2016, the firm has otherwise been cautious about being linked to the U.S. military.

A Google spokesperson responded to the report, saying, "We have long worked with government agencies to provide technology solutions". The company has further proclaimed that it believes in developing policies & safeguards pertaining to the development of its machine learning systems.

According to a Bloomberg report, United States defence secretary James Mattis had visited the Google HQ to meet with company officials to discuss the best ways to use AI, cloud computing and cybersecurity for the Pentagon.

The project is to assist the department in its "Project Maven" and its "Algorithmic Warfare Cross Functional Team", something that was announced previous year.

The project was launched previous year, with U.S. officials saying it was to "accelerate [Department of Defence's] integration of big data and machine learning". So Maven was created with the express objective of using machine learning to identify objects such as vehicles, houses and more, in the drone footage.

Last fall, onetime Google C.E.O. and current Alphabet board member Eric Schmidt neatly summed up the ethical concerns of those in Silicon Valley about contributing to military initiatives. Board members played an "advisory role" on Project Maven, according to meeting minutes, while "some members of the Board's teams are part of the executive steering group that is able to provide rapid input" on Project Maven. Drew Cukor said in a statement.

"The only way to do that is with commercial partners alongside us". To find out more about Google's involvement with Project Maven, it's well worth giving the original Gizmodo report a read.

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