Employees from Google are quitting the company to protest its totalitarian policies and secretive statist practices.
In May 2018, about a dozen Google workers gave up their jobs when they found out that their employer is handing over artificial intelligence (AI) to the Pentagon. This is a clear violation of U.S. civil rights, and these people wanted no part in it.
At issue was Google’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense under Project Maven which dates back to April 2017. The military contract for the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Function Team – Maven’s other name – calls for analyzing drone (robot aircraft) images to classify objects like cars and people automatically.
The Pentagon said Maven would build integrative “computer-vision algorithms needed to help military and civilian analysts encumbered by the sheer volume of full-motion video data that DoD collects every day in support of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.”
However, it is the U.S. defense departments, including Homeland Security, that define who is an “insurgent” or “terrorist.” And that is scary.
Even though Google described the goals of Project Maven as “non-offensive,” anyone with a brain understands that this sophisticated technology can be turned in any direction and for any purpose, no matter how evil or unjust.
Google kept its employees in the dark about the true nature of Maven. When they found out what they were really working on, they became “outraged” that “the company was using them and the software they helped develop to aid a government program that involves the killing of human beings overseas using unmanned aerial vehicles.”
In April 2018, some 3,000 Google employees petitioned the tech giant to withdraw from Maven. An open letter to CEO Sundar Pichai “expressed concern that the U.S. military could weaponize AI and apply the technology towards refining drone strikes and other kinds of lethal attacks, despite Google director Diane Greene’s insistence to the contrary.”
The workers’ complaint was simple:
“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.”
Not only did these thousands of Google employees lobby for corporate leadership to bow out of Project Maven, but they also wanted a new policy that would forbid Google from building warfare technology. Other high-profile tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon were also participating in the Orwellian plan.
The open letter to Google executives stressed the risks of alienating their clientele:
“We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties. Google’s stated values make this clear: every one of our users is trusting us. Never jeopardize that. Ever.”
It is certainly worth noting that on May 4, 2018, Google amended its official Code of Conduct to update its unofficial motto from “Don’t be evil” to “Do the right thing.” Google’s code says it has only the consumers’ best interests at heart:
“Our commitment to the highest standards helps us hire great people, build great products, and attract loyal users. Respect for our users, for the opportunity, and for each other are foundational to our success, and are something we need to support every day.”
Also included in Google’s Code of Conduct is an invitation for employee feedback:
“And if you have a question or ever think that one of your fellow Googlers or the company as a whole may be falling short of our commitment, don’t be silent. We want – and need – to hear from you.”
The April 2018 open letter plus public pressure prompted Google to back down from Project Maven. In June 2018, Google Cloud chief Diane Greene met with employees to announce that the company would not renew this defense contract when it expires in 2019. Perhaps their work – developing tools and skill to analyze drone video footage – will be done by then?
This month (September 2018), news leaked that seven more employees – mostly software engineers – had quit Google because of ethical problems with another project called Dragonfly, which is a “censored search app for the China market.”
When senior engineer Jack Poulson learned that he was aiding and abetting the Google China platform to link searches to personal phone numbers, he resigned in August 2018. Once again, Google had failed to come clean with its employees as to the true nature of their work.
Paulson and other employees have sided with human rights groups who fear the worst from high technology given to powerful world governments. He explained:
“We can debate whether or not [Dragonfly] was going to be deployed, but that’s almost irrelevant because the AI ethics claim that they promise not even to design it. At what stage do engineers have a voice?… What I worry about is, once something is built and is ready to launch, the power has been transferred out of the engineers’ hands to a small group of people’s hands. You’ve effectively de-democratized the ethics of the development project.
In fact, the censored Chinese Google app has already been demonstrated to Chinese officials. If approved, the final version could launch in six to nine months.
In 2000, China started work on their Great Firewall that blocks access to most of that country’s 731 million internet users.
Starting with a project called Golden Shield, the communists deployed a national “database-driven surveillance system capable of accessing every citizen’s record and connecting China’s security organizations. Now the government employs at least 50,000 people to enforce censorship, barring websites it disapproves of and forcing search engines to filter out content considered harmful. There’s also an army of social-media influencers who, by one estimate, post 500 million pro-government comments a year.”
Google was forced to leave China in 2010 because of internet censorship there. But now they’re back – with ironic vengeance.
A bipartisan group of sixteen U.S. Senators have questioned Google executives about the censored surveillance Google search engine in their own letter dated September 13, 2018. Addressing CEO Pichai, they wrote:
“As policymakers, we have a responsibility to ensure that American companies are not perpetuating human rights abuses abroad, and to ensure that our regulatory and statutory systems are able to deal with changing business environments.”
Other analysts are also concerned that the search engine giant’s behavior supports the conspiracy theory that the company has its roots in the CIA and intends to enable global totalitarianism through communications networks, with or without its top scientists. As this writer observed last month:
“It turns out that Google was the brainchild of the U.S. intelligence community who envisioned a future internet that would no longer be free (as it was in the late 1990s), but controlled by government forces with the ability to block user access, limit content, and track people online.”
Of great concern is the fact that survivors of Nazi Germany who saw Jews and other minority groups being targeted for extraction and deportation to the now-infamous “work camps” said nothing and did nothing.
No less than fourteen human rights groups are demanding that Google stop working with the oppressive Chinese government to further control their people through their online activity.
Hats off to all the Google employees who have quit for ethical, moral, and legal reasons.
Sadly, there are undoubtedly other workers waiting in line to replace them: people who either lack moral fiber or simply need a job – any job, no matter how unsavory, oppressive, or sinister.
Will Google lead the world into totalitarianism? Put another way: Who will stop them? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not at all clear.