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Is Government Misusing Amazon and Google's AI Technology?

June 26, 2018 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated September 02, 2020 11:39 AM UTC

Both tech giants have teamed up with government agencies to test it out.

Transcript
[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to Fortune Tech Debate, where we debate the issues of the day in two minutes. Today we're talking about the backlash against the government's use of AI technology. Bob, what's going on? Yeah, so big tech giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, they're working on these new sorts of AI image recognition technologies. And there are questions around who they're selling it to, what the technology is capable of, whether it's invading privacy, and whether they're empowering people to do bad things with this technology. This sounds like hysteria. Give me an example. Yeah, so Amazon, for instance, they ran a pilot program with the Orlando Police Department to provide facial recognition technology. They've got a product called Rekognition, with a K in the middle instead of C. And basically, it allows cops to track who is where. And that is raising some alarms. People are-- Hang on, that could be really useful. What if someone kidnaps a child? What if there's a killer on the loose and can spot them like that? That might be pretty useful. There are certainly good use cases for it. But by the same token, we've been seeing lately these stories of families getting separated. What if a political regime used that to target illegal immigrants and then to ship them off and separate them from their kids? I admit, that's kind of scary. But this sounds like this is one project, or is-- You said Google. What's up with that? Yeah, so Google, they had a contract in place with the Pentagon for drone imagery recognition. And actually Google employees were in an uproar about it. And they caused Google to take back the contract. They are no longer working on that tech anymore. You think about the Google motto being, don't be evil. They don't want to supply tech to the government. That strikes me as really naive. I mean, let's take a company like Boeing. They make airplanes. They sell stuff to the Pentagon. Pencil makers sell pencils to the Pentagon. Are these employees simply going to decide we're not going to work with the Pentagon anymore? Well, if you're Google, it seems like that's the case. Eric Schmidt, he has longtime ties to the Defense Department. He is the former CEO of Google and Alphabet. Do these Google employees know what the Chinese government does? They think the Pentagon is scary. China is deploying everything we're talking about everywhere all the time. We're very far from being there. Quite true, and maybe the US will be a little bit more conscious and respectful in pursuing than technologies than China. Well put, but we're out of time. For more Tech Debate, please go to fortune.com. [MUSIC PLAYING]