Google has announced its decision to withdraw from the competition of cloud computing contract from the Defense Department. The project was worth as much as $10 billion and Google says it is dropping out since the project might lead to conflict with its principles for the ethical use of AI.
The project known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud or JEDI, involves moving a large amount of Pentagon’s internal data and processing power to a commercial cloud service provider. “We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.”
Google’s decision to drop out of the bidding process comes on the back of widespread protect from thousands of Googlers over another US government project that Google was linked to. Some Google employees reportedly quit over the company’s work on Project Maven, which is a drone initiative from the US government and Google employees believed that the project end up weaponizing the AI research.
After Googlers began protesting against Google’s involvement with Project Maven, the search giant confirmed that it will not renew the contract or engage in any other military projects of similar nature. Post that incident, Google CEO Sundar Pichai even released a set of guidelines for ethical use of its AI tools. One of the key guideline is not to develop AI for weapons but it did not rule out working with military in other areas.
Google is not alone in this situation. Other major cloud service providers – Amazon and Microsoft – have also been criticized by their employees for working with the military and other defense projects. Amazon has been criticized for providing image recognition tool to law enforcement and defense department. While Microsoft faced criticism for providing cloud services to military and defense authorities.
Watch: Apple iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max Hands On
“We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirement,” Google added in its statement.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also recently said that the company is looking to strike right balance in terms of its work with the government. Since taking over as CEO in 2014, Nadella has also imposed ethical guidelines for AI development at the company. However, all of these tech giants, who are trying hard to expand their cloud business, are struggling between business acquisition and implied backlash from their employees.