An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: After years of backlash over controversial government work, Google technology will be used to aid the Trump administration’s efforts to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border, according to documents related to a federal contract. In August, Customs and Border Protection accepted a proposal to use Google Cloud technology to facilitate the use of artificial intelligence deployed by the CBP Innovation Team, known as INVNT. Among other projects, INVNT is working on technologies for a new “virtual” wall along the southern border that combines surveillance towers and drones, blanketing an area with sensors to detect unauthorized entry into the country.
Contracting documents indicate that CBP’s new work with Google is being done through a third-party federal contracting firm, Virginia-based Thundercat Technology. Thundercat is a reseller that bills itself as a premier information technology provider for federal contracts. The contract was obtained through a FOIA request filed by Tech Inquiry, a new research group that explores technology and corporate power founded by Jack Poulson, a former research scientist at Google who left the company over ethical concerns. Not only is Google becoming involved in implementing the Trump administration’s border policy, the contract brings the company into the orbit of one of President Donald Trump’s biggest boosters among tech executives.
Documents show that Google’s technology for CBP will be used in conjunction with work done by Anduril Industries, a controversial defense technology startup founded by Palmer Luckey. The brash 28-year-old executive — also the founder of Oculus VR, acquired by Facebook for over $2 billion in 2014 — is an open supporter of and fundraiser for hard-line conservative politics; he has been one of the most vocal critics of Google’s decision to drop its military contract. Anduril operates sentry towers along the U.S.-Mexico border that are used by CBP for surveillance and apprehension of people entering the country, streamlining the process of putting migrants in DHS custody. CBP’s Autonomous Surveillance Towers program calls for automated surveillance operations “24 hours per day, 365 days per year” to help the agency “identify items of interest, such as people or vehicles.” The program has been touted as a “true force multiplier for CBP, enabling Border Patrol agents to remain focused on their interdiction mission rather than operating surveillance systems.” It’s unclear how exactly CBP plans to use Google Cloud in conjunction with Anduril or for any of the “mission needs” alluded to in the contract document. Google faced internal turmoil in 2018 over a contract with the Pentagon to deploy AI-enhanced drone image recognition solutions. “In response to the controversy, Google ended its involvement with the initiative, known as Project Maven, and established a new set of AI principles to govern future government contracts,” notes The Intercept.