Google code of ethics on military contracts could hinder Pentagon work

By DefenseFOXBusiness

Amazon reportedly close to winning $10B Pentagon contract despite Trump feud

Mashable Tech Editor Pete Pachal on reports Amazon is close to winning a $10B Pentagon contract for cloud services.

Google is among the frontrunners for a lucrative, multibillion dollar contract with the Pentagon, but ethical concerns among some of its employees may pose a problem.

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The Defense Department’s pending cloud storage contract, known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), could span a decade and will likely be its largest yet – valued in the billions of dollars. The department issued draft requests for proposals to host sensitive and classified information and will likely announce the winner later this year.

While Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle are viewed as the major contenders for the job, Google’s employees have voiced concern about creating products for the U.S. government. More than 3,000 of the tech giant’s employees signed a letter, released this month, addressed to company CEO Sundar Pichai, protesting involvement in a Pentagon pilot program called Project Maven.

“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology,” the letter, obtained by The New York Times, read.

Project Maven is an artificial intelligence program designed to use data captured by government drones to identify and track objects viewed on surveillance footage. Google workers were concerned about how the application could be weaponized once under ownership of the U.S. military.

In response to the outcry, the head of the Google’s cloud division said the company would establish a code of ethics to “guide the company’s use of its technology and products,” according to a report from Defense One.

The executive said Google wouldn’t sign on to any other similar projects without having such a code in place.

The JEDI cloud contract aims to fully integrate all military services, but Google employees could have similar concerns about what the technology ultimately helps the military accomplish.

Google declined to comment when contacted by FOX Business.

As previously reported by FOX Business, major U.S. tech companies are worried Amazon is a front-runner for the JEDI contract, and are concerned about being locked out of the multiyear job for the coming decade.

Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Silicon Valley in August, where he stopped by both Google’s and Amazon’s headquarters.