Fingers in many pies
Employing in excess of 74,000 people and with a parent company boasting a market value of more than $110.8 billion, Google can certainly be seen as a corporate monster. With investments ranging from autonomous vehicles to smart home tech, their aims seem to be limitless.
At the same time I doubt you’d think the brand would have any real interest, or indeed involvement in contributing to military applications. However, Google has now confirmed that it is allowing the Pentagon to use some of its image recognition technologies as part of a military drone project.
A recent report released by Gizmodo outlined how Google’s artificial intelligence tech was being used to analyse drone footage. With little choice other than to confirm this report, the brand then opted to notify its workers of this secret collaboration via internal emails. Staff at Google have been quoted as saying they feel "outraged" by the report.
A spokeswoman for Google outlined the provision of software tools was to let the US Department of Defense make use of its TensorFlow machine learning code.
"The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only," she added.
"Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns.
"We're actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies."
In the past Google has made a concerted effort to distance itself from any military applications. Having built a robot for use in a Pentagon-organised competition the brand then decided to pull out for fear of illicit use. Google’s former chairman Eric Schmidt also made the switch to the Pentagon in an advisory position back in 2016, attracting further links to other possible collaborations.
The Gizmodo report outlined a program known as Project Maven, a scheme announced last July that uses computer algorithms to identify objects of concern. With growing international debate regarding how much independence a drone should possess, this report is sure to raise some eyebrows. It would seem for now Google is happy to entertain any possible future markets.