Sunday, 17 February, 2019

Microsoft upholds plan to work with United States military

“We want the people of this country and especially the people who serve this country to know that we at Microsoft have their back,” President Brad Smith wrote in a blog post Friday Microsoft upholds plan to work with United States military
Sherri Watson | 29 October, 2018, 23:47

He wrote that he and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed employee concerns about Microsoft's military work in a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, and conceded some workers are still uneasy about it.

Microsoft also pledged to "engage as a company in the public dialogue" with the Defense Department and policymakers about ethical issues surrounding artificial intelligence, including autonomous weapons. Employees who want to switch teams can apply for other open jobs within the company, he wrote.

"The contract is massive in scope and shrouded in secrecy, which makes it almost impossible to know what we as workers would be building", the employees protesting that decision said.

Throughout the piece, Smith continued to walk a fine line between patriotic duty to support the USA military, while carefully conceding that there will be different opinions in a large and diverse company population (some of whom aren't US citizens). "They will have access to the best technology that we create".

Microsoft announced on Friday that the company was standing by its decision to bid for "JEDI", a US government project aimed at redesigning the digital infrastructure of the Department of Defense, despite pushback from company employees. He added that this also applies to artificial intelligence.

The statement came two weeks after Google dropped out of the bidding for the huge Pentagon cloud computing contract that could be worth up to $10 billion.

"Recently Microsoft bid on an important defense project". The JEDI program, in accordance with that document, should be subject to a review from a special ethics committee within Microsoft, they said.

Google dropping out slightly cleared the field in a controversial process that has seen Oracle and IBM lodge protests arguing requirements look engineered to deliver the award to Amazon Web Services. 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. "Regardless of our views on the military, no one should be profiting from "increasing the lethality" of the military", the person wrote, referencing top defense officials' rhetoric on the Pentagon's broader cloud efforts.

That the Pentagon could trust housing its digital data with Google would have been helpful to its marketing efforts with large companies.

'We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements'.