Google TensorFlow will help USA military use AI to analyse drone footage

Angelica Greene
March 8, 2018

A Google spokeswoman said the company provides its TensorFlow application programming interfaces, or APIs, to a pilot project with the Department of Defense to help automatically identify objects in unclassified data.

The deal is part of the Defense Department's Project Maven initiative to use technology and automation to sift through huge amounts of data, according to tech publication Gizmodo, which reported on the partnership on Tuesday.

Project Maven came to the fore in April 2017 with the stated objective of accelerating the department of defence's integration of big data and machine learning.

A spokesperson for Google told our sister site ZDNet that TensorFlow is only being used to flag images for human review, and for non-offensive uses at that. Gizmodo reports that some Google employees are not happy about providing their technology for military uses. As noted by the co-author of a report on the use of artificial intelligence in the army Greg Allen (Greg Allen), the military learned to collect information, but did not care about the technologies for data analysis.

Google acknowledges the "valid concerns" and how the company is now discussing safeguards for machine learning.

There is no evidence, yet, if any other technology company is also involved with Project Maven. While its cloud competitors, Amazon and Microsoft Azure, offer government-oriented cloud products created to hold information classified as secret, Google does not now have a similar product offering.

Although Google's former chairman Eric Schmidt became an advisor to the Pentagon in 2016, the firm has otherwise been cautious about being linked to the United States military.

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Mr Schmidt is a head of the Defence Innovation Advisory Board in the U.S., which brings together prominent figures from Silicon Valley to "enhance the Defence Department's culture, organisation and processes".

The feature is part of a recent Pentagon contract involving Google's cloud unit, which is trying to wrest more government spending from cloud-computing leaders Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

Schmidt, who stepped down as executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet last month, chairs the Defence Innovation Board.

Drew Cukor, chief of the DoD's Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Function Team, said in July: "People and computers will work symbiotically to increase the ability of weapon systems to detect objects".

"There is no "black box" that delivers the AI system the government needs, at least not now", he continued.

"The only way to do that is with commercial partners alongside us".

But a Google spokesperson attempted to alleviate such concerns with the search giant's involvement in Project Maven.

Other reports by GizPress

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