In the same week that Microsoft declared that it will soon be able to handle the Pentagon’s Secret-level classified information in its Azure cloud, a group of the company’s employees made it clear Friday they don’t want their work to be used for “waging war.”
Particularly the “Employees of Microsoft” — the authors of a new post published on and promoted by Medium — take objection to Microsoft bidding on the Department of Defense’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) commercial cloud procurement, writing simply: “Microsoft, don’t bid on JEDI.”
“The contract is massive in scope and shrouded in secrecy, which makes it nearly impossible to know what we as workers would be building,” the post says, homing in on comments made in March by DOD Chief Management Officer John Gibson about the cloud’s use to increase U.S. military lethality.
“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,” says the letter “signed by employees of Microsoft,” though the letter doesn’t disclose how many workers “signed” it.
The post is the first published under the “Employees of Microsoft” byline, and there’s nothing to verify the account is actually linked to Microsoft employees. That said, Medium promoted the post to its more than 2 million Twitter followers.
Microsoft employees, concerned about the “violent application of powerful AI technology,” pen open letter urging the company not to bid for a $10 billion contract with the US military https://t.co/1nN6nIDTS0 pic.twitter.com/jIKm9I0UfL
— Medium (@Medium) October 12, 2018
Microsoft is only the latest major tech company to come under the scrutiny of its own employees for using innovation to support controversial missions of the government, like defense and border security. The letter, in fact, cites the similar case in which Google employees protested the company’s artificial intelligence work with the Defense Department’s Project Maven. The firm has since said it will end its contracted work on that project; and then, earlier this week, Google said it wouldn’t bid JEDI. The “executives were left with no choice but to pull out of the bid,” the Microsoft post says.
Microsoft employees spoke out also against a cloud contract the company has with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Despite our objections, the contract remains in place. Microsoft’s decision to pursue JEDI reiterates the need for clear ethical guidelines, accountability, transparency, and oversight,” the employees wrote.
“We need to put JEDI in perspective,” the post says. “This is a secretive $10 billion project with the ambition of building ‘a more lethal‘ military force overseen by the Trump Administration. The Google workers who protested these collaborations and forced the company to take action saw this. We do too.”
The protest from Microsoft employees was published just hours after bids were due for the JEDI contract. The post doesn’t say if the employees sent an actual letter to leaders prior to the deadline.
A spokesperson told FedScoop that “Microsoft submitted its bid on the JEDI contract on the October 12 deadline. While we don’t have a way to verify the authenticity of this letter, we always encourage employees to share their views with us.”