New report looks at the role of tech companies in the development of autonomous weapons

Dutch non-governmental organisation PAX conducted a survey among 50 technology companies from 12 countries, asking them about their activities and policies in the content of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS). Based on the survey results and additional research, PAX developed a ranking of the 50 tech companies, based on three criteria: whether the company develops technology that could be relevant in the context of LAWS, whether the company works on relevant military projects, and whether the company has committed to not contribute to the development of LAWS. Only seven companies were ranked as ‘best practices’, having committed to ensuring that the technologies they develop will not be used to produce autonomous weapons. Examples in this category include Google (whose AI Principles state that the company will not design or deploy AI for use in weapons), Russian pattern recognition company VisionLabs, and Japanese telecom company Softbank. The ranking includes 22 companies labelled as ‘medium concern’ and 22 ranked as ‘high concern’. Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle are listed among the most concerning companies, due to their interest in cooperating with the military sector and the potential use of their technologies (cloud computing, drones, facial and speech recognition, artificial intelligence infrastructure, and big data) for the development of LAWS. PAX also outlines several recommendations for companies, including a public commitment to not contribute to the development of LAWS, and the establishment of a clear policy and implementing measures to ensure that this is the case.