Google decided not to renew its contract with a Pentagon drone programme once it expires, after extensive protests from employees of the internet giant.
Diane Greene, head of the cloud business at Alphabet Inc.’s Google, told staff that the company will let the deal lapse when it runs out in March 2019, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Signed last September, the contract lets the Defense Department use Google artificial intelligence tools to analyse drone footage for an initiative called Project Maven. It was part of a major push by Greene to break into the lucrative business of selling cloud services to the government, where Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. dominate.
“We’ve always said this was an 18-month contract that we did, so it ends in March of 2019. And there will be no follow-on to Maven,” Greene told cloud division staff .
The Pentagon deal sparked a huge debate inside Google, which has historically avoided most military work. More than 4,000 employees signed a letter asking to cancel the contract and demanded that Google and its AI technology should not be in the business of war. At least a dozen staff resigned over the issue.
Gizmodo reported Greene’s decision earlier on June 1. Greene’s division is pushing for a much larger Pentagon cloud deal — the multibillion-dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract.