Monitoring, Censorship and Drones: Ethics Empower Employees to Avoid Tech Giants
Job candidates are rejecting job offers from Google, Amazon and other major technology companies because they refuse to work for companies that use technology they think violate human rights.
They can lure as much as they want with lucrative salary packages and the ability to highlight tomorrow’s most influential technologies.
Nevertheless, Amazon, Facebook and Google, for example, are feeling the heat with reports that some groups of programmers and engineers say thanks, but no thanks, when the big businesses fish for new employees.
The potential employees reject the offers because they are concerned with the ethical values of the companies or because the companies neglect the overall impact their technology may have on society.
This is a trend that appears on Twitter, where developers and engineers publish their correspondence with the companies under the #TechWontBuildIt thread.
One of them is Anna Geiduschek, who works as a developer in Dropbox. She is apparently a diligent programmer, and usually she ignores the job requests that end up in her inbox.
Geiduschek made an exception when Amazon Web Services approached a potential job offer. She rejected the offer with reference to Amazon having an agreement with the US surveillance company Palantir Technologies. Critics believe that Palantir’s systems are typically used to handle information about large groups of non-suspects, ie mass surveillance and so-called predictive policing.
For Anna Geiduschek, it was decisive that Palantir’s technological services were used by the US immigration authorities and thus were used this summer when migrants were divorced from their children and were caught in cages in southern United States.
“I might be a standalone example, but it may change if Amazon receives a lot of emails from people who say, ‘Hi, I do not want to work for you because of this’,” Anna Geiduschek told Spectrum IEEE.
Decided to respond to a recruiting email for a change today #TechWontBuildIt #NoTechForICE pic.twitter.com/sDA3Q1nQa5
— Anna Geiduschek (@ageiduschek) August 2, 2018
Jackie Luo, a programmer from Square, was contacted by Google with a job offer. This happened at the same time as Jackie Luo was had serious concerns about how Google works in China via the backdoor.
According to The Intercept, Google Developers have built a working version of their search engine, which is censored in China. The search engine should be published as an Android app in China.
According to The Intercept, the app is designed to filter content that the Communist Party of China considers sensitive, including information about political opponents, freedom of expression, human rights and peaceful protests.
With that in mind, and pointed out to Google, Jackie Luo declined the offer from the prospective new employer.
what an unfortunate morning for google to send me yet another recruiting email because they are about to get an earful pic.twitter.com/Hp3emw6tDa
— Jackie Luo (@jackiehluo) August 1, 2018
Luo also tells Spectrum IEEE that Google’s contract with the Pentagon to develop AI to the Department of Defense’s drones has also done nothing for her motivation to change jobs.
The rejection of job offers because of conscience or moral reasons can also be seen as a major trend. A trend that also reflects on how researchers or employees internally in technology companies try to say if technological advancement moves into a gray zone that is contrary to their inner compass.
In April, more than 50 of the world’s leading researchers in artificial intelligence and robot development demanded that a South Korean university shelter all cooperation with the gun manufacturer Hanwha Systems, if there were still an international research collaboration.
– The development within AI and autonomous weapons is in a potentially dangerous direction with this. It is our duty to take a position and try to make the decision makers aware of the consequences, one of the 50 who signed the boycott, Thomas Bolander, told Ingeniøren.
He is a Ph.D. and associate professor of logic and artificial intelligence at DTU Compute, and emphasizes that there are many unknown factors at Hanwha Systems University Laboratory.
A few days after, it emerged that over 3100 Google staff in a protest letter called for their boss to cancel Maven, a Pentagon project that is about developing a visual surveillance machine with AI intended for dronning war.
“This plan will irreparably damage Google’s brand and its ability to compete for talent. Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public’s trust. By entering into this contract, Google will join the ranks of companies like Palantir, Raytheon, and General Dynamics,” the protestors wrote in the letter.
Some of the employees threatened to quit, but so far, a kind of compromise has been entered into.
Google has said that they will not renew the contract at work med Project Maven, and that new contract partners must sign a set of rules that reflect Google’s values.
For Anna Geiduschek, who rejected the job offer from Amazon Web Services with reference to Palantir, her “sounds exciting, but no thanks” rejection might have had consequences.
According to her correspondence posted on Twitter, Amazon recruitment workers were surprised by the reason for the rejection from the Palantir order: – Wow, I did not know that. I will put it forward to management. Normally they are really proactive in connection with such things. Thank you for the answer. I really appreciate your honesty.
A version of this article first appeared in Norwegian at Ingeniøren.
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