Following Google’s exit from a controversial US military Cloud project, an open letter claiming to be from an unspecified number of Microsoft employees has urged the tech giant to also back out of the military project.
Potentially worth up to $10 billion, “Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI)” is a Cloud computing contract aimed to bring the entire military under the envelope of a single Cloud provider.
“The contract is massive in scope and shrouded in secrecy, which makes it nearly impossible to know what we as workers would be building,” an open letter titled “Microsoft, don’t bid on JEDI” said on the Medium portal written by “Employees of Microsoft”.
“Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war.
“When we decided to work at Microsoft, we were doing so in the hopes of ’empowering every person on the planet to achieve more,’ not with the intent of ending lives and enhancing lethality,” the open letter further read.
For those who say that another company will simply pick up JEDI where Microsoft leaves it, we would ask workers at that company to do the same, said the letter.
“A race to the bottom is not an ethical position. Like those who took action at Google, Salesforce, and Amazon, we ask all employees of tech companies to ask how your work will be used, where it will be applied, and act according to your principles,” the Microsoft employees said.
Succumbing to pressure from employees, Google last week dropped its bid to be part of the JEDI contract.
The employees backlashed and raised ethical questions on facilitating incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on weapons, illegal surveillance and technologies that could cause “overall harm”.
“We need clear ethical guidelines and meaningful accountability governing how we determine which uses of our technology are acceptable, and which are off the table. Microsoft has already acknowledged the dangers of the tech it builds, there is no law preventing the company from exercising its own internal scrutiny and standing by its own ethical compass,” the letter by Microsoft employees detailed.
On October 9, Microsoft wrote a blog post, saying the company is going through a technology transformation that is unlocking new mission scenarios for government agencies that were simply not possible before.
“We are going through a technology transformation that is unlocking new mission scenarios for government agencies with the ability to plan farther, gather information more efficiently and deliver insight where it is needed most,” the post noted.