The Pentagon accuses Google of aiding the Chinese military while Google’s ex-CEO and current VP of wireless services are both listed as members of the Defense Innovation Advisory Board.
“The work that Google is doing in China is benefiting the Chinese military”
The US Defense Innovation Advisory Board’s mandate is “to provide department leaders independent advice on innovative and adaptive means to address future organizational and cultural challenges, including the use of technology alternatives, streamlined project management processes and approaches – all with the goal of identifying quick solutions to DoD problems.”
Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt is still listed on the Defense Innovation Advisory Board while the tech giant he used to lead is accused of aiding the Chinese military.
Read More: US defense intelligence warns of AI-human hybrid soldiers from China
Even though Schmidt may be visibly out at Google, he is still very much in at the Pentagon. In fact, he chairs the board.
There is still at least one among Google’s current senior leadership on the board as well, Milo Medin, who is currently the vice president of wireless services at Google.
You can see the full board membership here.
Pentagon Accuses Google of Aiding Chinese Military
“If a U.S. company does business in China, they will automatically be required to have a cell of the Communist Party”
US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joe Dunford has been outspoken over a technological arms race with China, and last week he accused Google of directly aiding the Chinese military.
Read More: ‘Man-machine teaming’ is a ‘critical element’ in AI competition with China: Joint Chiefs Chairman
“The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Indirect maybe not be a full characterization of the way it is. It’s more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military,” he added.
In response a Google spokesperson was quoted as denying the accusation on Twitter by Wall Street Journal White House correspondant Vivian Salama.
Statement from a Google spokesperson: “We are not working with the Chinese military. We are working with the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, in many areas including cybersecurity, recruiting and healthcare.” https://t.co/4Wv9jVHv8R
— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) March 17, 2019
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan echoed concerns that China had hijacked American innovation.
“$5 trillion of their [China’s] economy is state-owned enterprises. So the technology that has developed in the civil world transfers to the military world, it’s a direct pipeline,” said Shanahan.
“Not only is there a transfer, there is systemic theft of U.S. technology that facilitates even faster development of emerging technology,” he added.
On March 21, General Dunford reiterated the same point during the Atlantic Council’s Commanders’ Series, stating:
“If a U.S. company does business in China, they will automatically be required to have a cell of the Communist Party. That is going to lead to [that company’s] intellectual property going to the Chinese military.”
Project Dragonfly: Google’s Alleged Censored Search Engine in China
“Google employees are concerned that development of the project remains ongoing”
Google’s history of alleged ethics violations concerning work in China include that of attempting to build a censored version of the search engine in China named Project Dragonfly, which would have reportedly limited free speech while supporting an oppressive government.
When Google’s current CEO Sundar Pichai testified before Congress earlier this year, he said that there were no plans to launch a censored search engine in China.
Read More: Google+ bug impacting 52.5M users announced day before CEO testifies in Congress
However, a report coming out of The Intercept paints a concerning picture from Google employees that Google may still be developing Project Dragonfly in some form or another.
“Google employees have carried out their own investigation into the company’s plan to launch a censored search engine for China and say they are concerned that development of the project remains ongoing,” according to The Intercept.
The same report alleges that Pichai “has a strong desire to launch search again in China — viewing the censorship as a worthwhile trade-off to gain access to the country’s more than 800 million internet users — and he may now be waiting for the controversy around Dragonfly to die down before quietly resurrecting the plan.”
‘Don’t be Evil, Do the Right Thing’
“Look! we’re the good guys.”
While “don’t be evil” was part of Google’s code of conduct for many years, it was replaced by “do the right thing” when its parent company Alphabet was formed.
However, these broad sweeping statements don’t mean a thing without context. What does “do the right thing” mean to Google? Does it mean do the right thing for the company? For shareholders? For the country in which it was founded? Do the right thing for whom or by what?
According to General Dunford, Google is not doing the right thing for the United States of America, but is rather doing the right thing for China.
“Look! we’re the good guys,” Dunford said of Google, adding, “in the values that we represent, and the system that we represent is the one that will allow and has allowed you to thrive.”
“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is […] a direct benefit to the Chinese military.
Saying that the US is the good guy is something Dunford has been touting everywhere he speaks. In a streamed interview (video above) during the Washington Post‘s Transformers: Defense Summit on December 6, 2018, he said:
“We are the good guys and it’s inexplicable to me that we would make compromises in order to advance our business interest in China where we know that freedoms are restrained, where we know that China will take intellectual property from companies — strip that away, put the companies in the dust bin of history and then use that intellectual property for their own advantage.”
More on Project Dragonfly Ethical Concerns at Google
“We object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable”
On November 27, 2018, Google employees took to Medium to write a post called, “We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly.”
Read More: Big tech employees voicing ethical concerns echo warnings from history: Op-ed
Employees at Google are concerned that their work on creating a censored version of the search engine in China, Dragonfly, would be used to enable “state surveillance” and oppression.
“Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be,” the group called Google Employees Against Dragonfly highlighted.
The Intercept reported, “Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries.”
“Google compiled a censorship blacklist that included terms such as ‘human rights,’ ‘student protest,’ and ‘Nobel Prize’ in Mandarin.”