SAN FRANCISCO — Google will not renew a contract with the Pentagon for artificial intelligence work when a current deal expires next year, a senior company executive told employees at a meeting on Friday.
Diane Greene, who is the head of the Google Cloud business that won the Project Maven contract with the Pentagon, told employees that it was backing away from the A.I. work with the military during a weekly meeting, according to a person familiar with the discussion but not permitted to speak publicly about it. Ms. Greene’s comments were reported earlier by Gizmodo.
Google’s decision to work with the Defense Department on the Maven program, which uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes, has upset many of the company’s top A.I. researchers, who worry that the military contract is the first step toward using the nascent technology for lethal purposes.
About 4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding “a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.” A handful of employees have resigned in protest, while some are openly advocating the company to cancel the contract with the military.
Ms. Greene, according to the person familiar with the meeting, said she would not have pursued the Maven deal if she had to do it over again because of the controversy it had caused inside the company.
Follow Daisuke Wakabayashi on Twitter: @daiwaka.