Google to draft ethics rules after defense contract angers employees
- Google will draw up ethics principles following employees' objections to a company project for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), reports Fortune. The Maven project entailed using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze drone videos to identify objects under surveillance.
- Google denies being involved in military offensive activity, but a group of more than 3,000 employees believed the project would aid the department in targeting people for death and wrote CEO Sundar Pichai stating their objection to it. According to Fortune, Google Cloud chief Diane Greene followed up by telling employees in a town hall meeting that management will draft ethics principles that prohibit the company from getting involved in future Maven-type projects without having such guidelines in place. She also said she regretted that Google had signed on to aid the project.
- Google was involved with DOD before Maven when it purchased Boston Dynamics in 2013, says Fortune. The company's robotic technology, BigDog, is being used for a Pentagon project. Google said it intends to honor the contract.
Ethics policies go a long way in building and maintaining a brand that stands for honesty and authenticity — increasingly important in a market that requires an employer's brand to be strong both internally and externally. Organizations with reputations for being good corporate citizens score high with employees, candidates and customers, and HR managers can lead this charge.
According to a Glassdoor study, 84% of employees want their employer to support causes that directly affect their lives. Essentially, activism at an employer level is growing into a sort of expectation among potential employees as a signal that their employer cares about their community and employee base.
The example also points to the importance of taking the time to listen to employee feedback. An employer can hardly run an ethical workplace without first considering the interests of those who work for it. Google's willingness to adopt ethics principles may have been a response to complaints and media attention, but it is an example of an employer responding to a cause that its workers showed they strongly supported.