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Google reportedly pitched the Pentagon a “Google-earth-like” AI surveillance tool

Reuters/Stephen Lam
Wanting more.
  • Dave Gershgorn
By Dave Gershgorn

Artificial intelligence reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Google will not renew its controversial Maven contract with the US Defense Department, Gizmodo reports, meaning that the company will no longer develop the AI tools for the Pentagon past next year.

Emails from Google managers obtained by Gizmodo show that the project was intended to be more wide-reaching than Google originally indicated. The company reportedly pitched a “Google-earth-like” surveillance tool, which would allow users to click on a building and “see everything associated with it,” as well as monitor vehicles, people, and large crowds for an entire undisclosed city.

This would all be analyzed by Google AI software, allowing analysis of a city’s data in “near-real time,” according to Gizmodo. The Maven contract was worth at least $15 million, not $9 million as originally reported, and had the ability to grow to $250 million.

Google Cloud’s chief AI scientist, Fei-Fei Li, was also reportedly keen on the deal, though reaffirmed her focus on “human-centric AI” and refusal to work on weaponized AI when part of the email was published by The New York Times earlier. We have reached out to Goggle and will update this post with comments.

“It’s so exciting that we’re close to getting MAVEN! That would be a great win,” Li wrote in a Sept. 24, 2017 email, according to Gizmodo. “I think we should do a good PR on the story of DoD collaborating with GCP from a vanilla cloud technology angle (storage, network, security, etc.), but avoid at ALL COSTS any mention or implication of AI.”

Google will release guidelines on the ethical use of AI next week, according to the Gizmodo report.

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