Microsoft workers demand company cancel $480 million US military contract
Story Code : 779603
Some 94 workers signed a petition on Friday calling on the company to stop developing “any and all weapons technologies” for the US Defense Department.
Microsoft won a contract in November to supply the US Army with at least 2,500 prototypes of augmented reality headsets, which digitally display contextual information in front of a user’s eyes.
The US Defense Department has said the devices would be used on the battlefield and in training to improve soldiers “lethality, mobility and situational awareness.”
In the petition to Microsoft executives, posted on Twitter, the workers said they “did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.” They called on the company to develop “a public-facing acceptable use policy” for its technology and an external review board to publicly enforce it.
Microsoft president Brad Smith said in an October blog post that the company remained committed to assisting the military and would advocate for laws to ensure responsible use of new technologies.
Though many US government agencies want to draw upon the expertise of the biggest American tech companies, employee resistance has added a new challenge to already complicated relationships.
Worker opposition led Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc last year to announce it would cancel a Pentagon contract in which its artificial intelligence technology is used to analyze drone imagery.
In other cases, employee criticism has invited greater public scrutiny to deals, such as $10 billion cloud computing contract yet to be awarded and various contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.