Microsoft will continue to lend support to the Defense Department, as part of which it will also sell software to the US military, even while its staff is doubtful about how ethical it would be to provide cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) tools that may result in violence and conflicts across the globe.
Employees disapprove of company software being used for warfare or policing or anything that goes against the interest of the minorities. Recently, employees have protested Microsoft’s deals aimed at giving a push to military capabilities, surveillance, immigration restrictions and tracking of suspects and criminals.
Accepting the importance of the military and the country’s dependence on the same, Microsoft believes that no institution is free of blemishes, and therefore, it sees no reason to avoid supporting a department that serves the country.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Microsoft workers had signed a petition against a contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement that had originally included AI software too. However, the Company openly declared its support for the military and promised to provide support in terms of the best of technology.
Microsoft is in discussions with the US Government with regard to the ethical issues raised by these new technologies. The Company intends to address the public policies and legal issues that are associated with new technology, particularly cyber weapons and surveillance. It will work towards ensuring that AI and similar modern technologies are used in a responsible and ethical manner.
The Company holds nothing against the employees who disapprove of certain projects. Such employees have the liberty to move to other projects if they so wish.
This issue has come up at a time when many technology companies including Amazon and Google are struggling to strike a balance between profitable government contracts and ethics.
Google had decided not to pitch for the Pentagon cloud-computing contract worth $10 billion, as it felt it went against its corporate values. The project, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI, requires moving huge volumes of defense data to a commercially operated cloud system. However, both Amazon and Microsoft are in the race to bag the project.