Has Google Outfoxed Its Anti Military Staff?

August 15, 2019

Last year, Google faced a strong employee backlash when it was revealed the company had been working with the Department of Defense on its AI drone program through the secretive Project Maven. Lest anyone thought the company’s supposed change of heart was genuine, it seems it has simply become more underhanded about it. The Intercept reports, “Google Continues Investments in Military and Police AI Technology Through Venture Capital Arm.” Writer Lee Fang reveals:

“Rather than directly engage in controversial contracts, Google is providing financial, technological, and engineering support to a range of startups through Gradient Ventures, a venture capital arm that Google launched in 2017 to nurture companies deploying AI in a range of fields. Google promises interested firms access to its own AI training data and sometimes places Google engineers within the companies as a resource. The firms it supports include companies that provide AI technology to military and law enforcement. …”

Evidence? There are emails:

“Google employees — who spoke anonymously, fearing reprisal — said the work embraced by Gradient Ventures startups appears to circumvent the commitment by their employer to carefully vet and disclose military and law enforcement applications of AI technology. The startups not only receive financial support from Google. Google employees shared internal company emails with The Intercept that stated that all firms backed by Gradient Ventures ‘will be able to access vast swaths of training data that Google has accumulated to train their own AI systems’ and ‘will have the opportunity to receive advanced AI trainings from Google.’”

These internal emails also reveal that senior Google engineers rotate into firms backed by Gradient Ventures. This includes CAPE Productions, which supplies drone-surveillance technology to U.S. law enforcement, and Cogniac, which does the same for both law enforcement and the military. See the article for more on each of these companies.

Naturally, Google tries to dismiss the arrangements as run-of-the mill investments with minimal involvement on their part. A company called Enduril may be one beneficiary of Google’s anti government actions, and the company is hiring.

Cynthia Murrell, August 15, 2019


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