Microsoft employees revolt over plans to bid for $10bn Pentagon contract, claiming it could ’cause harm and human suffering’

Monday, October 15, 2018
By Paul Martin

Comes after Google dropped out of the bidding for a huge Pentagon contract
Left other tech giants including Amazon and Microsoft in the running
Lucrative contract will overhaul the military’s computing systems

15 October 2018

Microsoft employees have hit back at the firm’s plan to bid for a controversial $10bn Pentagon contract.

In a letter published on blogging site Medium, the employees wrote that they joined Microsoft with ‘the expectation that the technologies we build will not cause harm or human suffering.’

They also accused Microsoft executives of betraying the company’s artificial intelligence principles—ones that state A.I. should be ‘fair, reliable and safe, private and secure, inclusive, transparent, and accountable’—in pursuit of ‘short-term profits.’

It comes after Google dropped out of the bidding for a huge Pentagon cloud computing contract that could be worth up to $10 billion, saying the deal would be ‘inconsistent with its principles’.

The decision by Google left a handful of other tech giants including Amazon and Microsoft in the running for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract aimed at modernizing the military’s computing systems.

The Microsoft post specifically mentioned comments by Department of Defense Chief Management Officer John H. Gibson II that the JEDI program ‘is truly about increasing the lethality of our department.’

‘We need to put JEDI in perspective,’ it said.

However, it was unclear how many employees were behind the letter.

This is a secretive $10 billion project with the ambition of building ‘a more lethal’ military force overseen by the Trump Administration.

‘The Google workers who protested these collaborations and forced the company to take action saw this. We do too.

‘So we ask, what are Microsoft’s A.I. Principles, especially regarding the violent application of powerful A.I. technology? How will workers, who build and maintain these services in the first place, know whether our work is being used to aid profiling, surveillance, or killing?’

When it pulled out, Google said in a statement ‘we couldn’t be assured that [the JEDI deal] would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.’

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