Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google said on Monday it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company's new ethical guidelines do not align with the project, without elaborating.
The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract is a massive undertaking that aims to transform the US military's information technology infrastructure by moving vast amounts of its data to a cloud computing platform.
After details of Google's involvement with Project Maven came to light, thousands of Google employees signed a petition asking for Google to bow out of the project, and dozens more resigned in protest.
"We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements", a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
In June, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai unveiled a set of principles on the company's use of artificial intelligence, saying that the company would not participate in "technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm" and would stay away from "weapons or other technologies whose principal objective or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people".
The move follows a broader reckoning at Google over how the company's artificial intelligence algorithms, which are some of the most advanced in the world, should be applied to the work of national defense.
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Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently took meetings in Washington to try to rebuild the company's relationship with the military amid all the employee unrest.
Still, Google's decision to pull out was probably a smart one given that its chances of landing the contract were pretty slim, a second analyst said. But Google Cloud chief executive Diane Greene said at the time that the company could not control the military's "downstream use" of the technology.
Now, for the cloud-computing project, Google says it believes that a "multi-cloud approach" is in the best interest of all government agencies because it "allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload".
Earlier this year, controversy emerged within Google over the company's participation in Project Maven, an effort to build artificial intelligence for the Department of Defense to analyze drone video footage, which could be used to target drone strikes.
Top Pentagon officials have said the JEDI contract would account for about 16 percent of the Department's overall cloud computing work, subsuming numerous Defense Department's existing cloud efforts.
The JEDI contract has been a source of controversy in the past, but that was mostly due to the DOD's decision to award it to a single cloud service provider. Amazon has said it favors the single-cloud approach for the JEDI contract.