Pentagon Getting Help from Google with Military Spy Drones
Google CEO Sundar Pichai is often moved to tout a technological future powered by artificial intelligence, but most would not connect the company's AI work with death from the sky.
Yet the Mountain View tech giant has just confirmed it is providing artificial intelligence software tools to the Department of Defense for analysis of military drone footage. However, the machine-learning assistance is most definitely not about facilitating the raining down of Hellfire missiles upon hapless humans, Google said.
"The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only," a company spokesperson told Gizmodo.
To be sure, while the Pentagon's drone program is best known for spotting and obliterating militants and alleged terrorists (and considerable numbers of innocents), U.S. military drones -- which don't all carry weapons -- are frequently used to help keep American troops and their allies safe from attack, and for other non-combat purposes. They're also employed to gather intelligence and imagery for uses that are not immediately offensive in nature.
Google acknowledged that military use of its programming interfaces raised "valid concerns" and said it was "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."
Google supplies some technology to the U.S. military, but has been sensitive about how it's used, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.
But the firm's push to compete in cloud storage and AI-boosted cloud services against Amazon Web Services and others may be altering its approach to working with the Pentagon, Bloomberg suggested.
"Google's attitude toward military work may be changing as its cloud business competes with AWS, Microsoft and other rivals," according to Bloomberg.
"The U.S. government is already a big cloud customer and the Pentagon is looking to the technology sector for new tools and strategies, including AI."
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Image credit: U.S. Cyber Command.