Google found itself in hot water back in 2018, after employees staged a walkout in protest of a proposed relationship between Google and the Government. At the center of the controversy was a proposed contract that would see Google provide the military with access to enhanced cloud services to be used for Project Maven.
Project Maven would essentially use AI to better interpret video and images that would in turn be used to improve the targeting capability of drone strikes. This raised the issue of ethics within Google and more specifically, how its technology gets used. Google’s newfound sense of conscience ended up winning out back then, but a new project seems poised to test Google’s ambition against the heart of the company.
Despite the fact that other tech companies largely and consistently seek out contracts with the military, Google has quietly watched from afar. Now that the government’s contract with Microsoft is coming to an end, Google seems to be in the perfect position to step in and take over. This new contract isn’t wildly different from Project Maven, but also much more expansive. It could also be one of the most lucrative deals Google has ever landed.
The contract is called the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, and it could very well revolutionize the face of war and combat as we know it. Under this new proposal, Google would provide the government with access to their cloud computing program, in an effort to gain a distinct advantage in combat. This directly conflicts with Google’s ethical use guidelines, which clearly outline how they plan on using their AI and cloud computing technologies.
The single biggest issue here is that Google could lease its technology to the government under the full expectation that it be used ethically. Thanks to Pentagon rules that prevent outside access to data that they consider sensitive or classified, they would be under no obligation to share with Google how its cloud platform is being used.
According to The New York Times, the government “hopes to award a contract by April.” This gives Google plenty of time to step in and make a solid bid, but it also will allow for its notoriously outspoken employees to perhaps step in and run interference on this one as well.