Employees call on Microsoft to drop HoloLens-US Army contract: ‘We did not sign up to develop weapons’

Employees call on Microsoft to drop HoloLens-US Army contract: ‘We did not sign up to develop weapons’

7:00pm, 22nd February, 2019
Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller uses a HoloLens augmented-reality system to manipulate virtual objects during a 2017 demonstration at Camp Foster on Okinawa. (U.S. Marine Photo / Tayler P. Schwamb) A group of Microsoft employees with 100,000 HoloLens “mixed reality” headsets, the latest example of internal strife over tech giants’ work for military and law enforcement agencies. In the letter, , the group says it represents “a global coalition of Microsoft workers” who don’t want to see the teams that built HoloLens become “implicated as war profiteers.” The group wrote that the company needs to do a better job informing engineers about what their work will be used for. “We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built,” the employees wrote in the letter addressed to CEO Satya Nadella and President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. “We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.” The letter was tweeted by an account called Microsoft Workers 4 Good. On behalf of workers at Microsoft, we're releasing an open letter to Brad Smith and Satya Nadella, demanding for the cancelation of the IVAS contract with a call for stricter ethical guidelines.If you're a Microsoft employee you can sign at: — Microsoft Workers 4 Good (@MsWorkers4) GeekWire reached out to Microsoft for comment, and we will update this post if we hear back. Microsoft beat out several other suitors to win the contract, including Magic Leap. for the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System project, the goal is to “manufacture a single platform that soldiers can use to fight, rehearse, and train. This platform will provide increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness.” The letter says Microsoft has previously licensed technology to the military, and HoloLens has been used for in the past. But this contract is the first time, the employees say, that Microsoft has “crossed the line into weapons development.” The deal comes as Microsoft received Microsoft is in the running for a $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract. Smith last October defending its pursuit of the contract, claiming that technologists should be involved in government adoption of new innovations to ensure they are not misused. Employees and shareholders at big tech companies have been active in calling out their employers over contracts with law enforcement. A group of Amazon shareholders last month its facial recognition software to government agencies until the board has determined that the technology doesn’t pose risks to civil and human rights. Google opted not to continue a contract with the Department of Defense — an attempt to use artificial intelligence to better identify the targets of drone strikes.