Liz O'Sullivan says she struggled for months as she learned more about the military project her in which her employer, Clarifai, was participating. Liz O'Sullivan says she struggled for months as she learned more about the military project her in which her employer, Clarifai, was participating. On the night of Jan. 16, Liz O'Sullivan sent a letter she'd been working on for weeks. It was directed at her boss, Matt Zeiler, the founder and CEO of Clarifai, a tech company. "The moment before I hit send and then afterwards, my heart, I could just feel it racing," she says.
Fox News Flash top headlines for August 25 are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com U.S. tech employees are collectively taking action like never before in a broad push for better conditions, job security, higher wages and more, The Associated Press reported Sunday. Despite six-figure salaries and unlimited vacation time, many tech workers have been questioning the effects of their work and joining forces with more blue-collar, service and contract-worker counterparts, pressing for better work conditions and pay. Tech workers marching to support Facebook's cafeteria workers in San Francisco last month.
Silicon Valley has a long and secretive history of building hardware and software for the military and law enforcement. In contrast, a recent wave of employee protests against some of those government contracts has been short, fast, and surprisingly public--tearing through corporate campuses, mailing lists, and message boards inside some of the world's most powerful companies. The revolt is part of a growing political awakening among some tech employees about the uses of the products they build. What began as concern inside Google about a Pentagon contract to tap the company's artificial-intelligence smarts was catalyzed by outrage over Trump administration immigration policies. Now, it seems to be spreading quickly.
Last summer, a sign appeared on the door to a stuffy, windowless room at the office of Manhattan artificial-intelligence startup Clarifai. "Chamber of secrets," it read, according to three people who saw it. The notice was a joking reference to how the small team working inside was not permitted to discuss its work with others at Clarifai. Former and current employees say the group was working on a controversial Pentagon project using machine-learning algorithms to interpret drone-surveillance imagery--and that Clarifai's secrets were less safe than they should have been. A lawsuit filed by former employee Amy Liu this month alleges that Clarifai's computer systems were compromised by one or more people in Russia, potentially exposing technology used by the US military to an adversary.
In January, Liz O'Sullivan wrote a letter to her boss at artificial intelligence startup Clarifai, asking him to set ethical limits on its Pentagon contracts. WIRED had previously revealed that the company worked on a controversial project processing drone imagery. O'Sullivan urged CEO Matthew Zeiler to pledge the company would not contribute to the development of weapons that decide for themselves whom to harm or kill. At a company meeting a few days later, O'Sullivan says, Zeiler rebuffed the plea, telling staff he saw no problems with contributing to autonomous weapons. Clarifai did not respond to a request for comment.