In AIsecurity

Why we’re a part of Project Maven

By Matthew Zeiler

Clarifai is an active participant in Project Maven, a U.S. Department of Defense AI initiative. As founder & CEO of Clarifai, I want to explain the reasoning behind our decision to contribute to this project. I also want to correct misinformation that has recently been published about our Company.

Clarifai’s mission is to accelerate the progress of humanity with continually improving AI.

After careful consideration, we determined that the goal for our contribution to Project Maven — to save the lives of soldiers and civilians alike— is unequivocally aligned with our mission.

For this project, we’re using the same widely-available version of the Clarifai technology that any developer or business can access today. The capabilities developed here also have important civilian applications such as disaster response and search and rescue. We are a leading AI company and with Responsibility being a core value of ours, we believe in putting our resources toward society’s best interests, and that includes America’s security.

We normally don’t comment on our specific clients, whether commercial or part of the government, and we normally don’t comment on news articles. But a recent media story reported on inaccurate allegations including a number of serious mischaracterizations and falsehoods about Clarifai that I want to set straight.

First and foremost, we did not have a security incident putting government or other customer information at risk. Last fall, an untargeted bot was identified on an isolated research server located in a Clarifai datacenter. We quickly contained the situation and, with the services of an independent security firm, determined the bot did not access any data, algorithms or code. Also, the research server is separate from the infrastructure on which Clarifai customers run. Government customers in particular do not utilize Clarifai’s infrastructure.

Second, we were forthcoming with our customers about the incident. We voluntarily notified customers following a full assessment, including an external audit and report by a security firm. We notified the relevant team at the Department of Defense. Our customers and their information are our absolute top commitment, and it is a commitment we take very seriously. That is why we informed customers. We stand ready to address any remaining questions or concerns they may have.

Third, we believe we have been transparent and accommodating with employees on the project. The project was broadly disclosed to the company as a government initiative upon finalization of the initial contract. Every member of Clarifai’s team working on the project was informed of the nature of the work and every employee at Clarifai has signed an NDA. Two employees decided they no longer wanted to be part of the initiative, and were reassigned to other projects within Clarifai. An important part of our culture is having employees who are actively engaged in the work that we do. We make sure they understand the projects they are asked to work on and regularly accommodate employee requests to switch or work on particular projects of interest.

Finally, we strongly dispute the allegations, as reported in the article, especially the role played by our GC Caroline McCaffery. Caroline initiated Clarifai’s decision to notify customers of the bot incident, even though there was no data loss.

While it is deeply frustrating and disappointing to see false allegations about our company reprinted so easily, we understand and appreciate the media’s interest in raising important questions about the role of AI in our world and our future. At Clarifai, we are committed to building the best technology for human advancement. We encourage everyone at Clarifai to express their thoughts openly and participate in the broader discussion on the potential uses and abuses of artificial intelligence across all sectors.

We expect to provide our leading edge AI to more government customers in the future. To support this work, we have brought on Sean Alger as GM of Public Sector and are opening an office in DC. Sean has over 20 years of enterprise software sales and leadership experience in the public sector. His depth of industry knowledge and proven ability to build high-performance teams will be key in growing Clarifai’s customer base in the federal and state and local market. As we move forward, we will continually evaluate our role in all projects, government and commercial, to stay true to our mission.