In response to those employees troubled by Microsoft's pursuit of the Department of Defense's JEDI cloud computing contract, Microsoft President Brad Smith argued Friday the company has a duty to supply those who serve in the military with the best technology-then engage in the conversation over its ethical use in war.
In a recent interview, Oracle founder Larry Ellison said of Google, "I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking".
Officials at Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle this week maintained their decisions to work with the USA military, despite backlash from employees who have expressed concern that technology, such as artificial intelligence, could be weaponized by the Pentagon to kill people.
Microsoft's blog post stated that if granted the contract, the company will give differential employees an option to "work on a different project or team". "We are not going to withdraw from the future".
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'. Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle submitted bids by the October 12 deadline, company spokespeople confirmed this week, and the Defense Department is expected to award a contract next year.
'We need to put JEDI in perspective, ' it said.
Employees within tech companies have protested against their companies' involvement in military and federal law enforcement work.
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However, it was unclear how many employees were behind the letter. 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?'
Earlier this month, Google said it was dropping its JEDI bid in part because "we couldn't be assured that it would align with our AI principles" unveiled this year.
The principles bar use of Google's artificial intelligence (AI) software in weapons as well as services that violate worldwide norms for surveillance and human rights.
The Pentagon's $10 billion JEDI cloud contract bidding process has drawn a lot of attention.
That the Pentagon could trust housing its digital data with Google would have been helpful to its marketing efforts with large companies.
Microsoft is "proud" of the work it does with the military, Smith continues.
Microsoft decision, which the Times said was announced in a small town-hall style company meeting on Thursday, contrasts sharply with the decision of its rival Google, which has said it will not sell technology to the government that can be used in weapons.