Just four months ago Google saw quite some resistance to its involvement in the Pentagon's controversial artificial intelligence (AI) drone program Project Maven. The tech giant eventually chose not to renew their contract dealing with the program.
Now, the firm has decided to steer clear of yet another potentially problematic government initiative. Alphabet Inc’s Google told Bloomberg in a statement this week that the company would no longer put in its bid for the US Defense Department's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract.
Google's AI principles
“We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles," said a Google spokesman. "And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.”
JEDI is the Pentagon's attempt to create a common cloud infrastructure and platform capable of supporting its 3.4 million users. The aim is to power data-sharing between headquarters and forward-deployed personnel, artificial intelligence and machine learning applications, as well as advanced cybersecurity in order to see warfighters "dominate in the battlefield."
A statement of work included in the contract's July 26 solicitation said the program would aim to increase the now-troublesome speed of data flow provided to combat troops. "A fragmented and largely on premises computing and storage solution forces the warfighter into tedious data and application management processes, compromising their ability to rapidly access, manipulate, and analyze data at the homefront and tactical edge," read the statement.
The contract has a massive ceiling value of $10 billion over a period of 10 years, one of the largest of its kind in history. Last March, Google was provisionally awarded “moderate” security clearance to handle US government data.
Do no harm
However, it now seems the firm will not be going further with their JEDI plans. The move was welcomed by the Tech Workers Coalition which posted the news to their Twitter account with the words: "Respect to workers who forced Google to state ethical principles."
"Alphabet Inc.’s Google has decided not to compete for the Pentagon’s cloud-computing contract valued at as much as $10 billion, saying the project may conflict with its corporate values."— Tech Workers Coalition (@techworkersco) October 8, 2018
Respect to workers who forced Google to state ethical principles.https://t.co/9yJpy7bPQV
Bidding for the JEDI program began two months ago and ends this week. Google's AI principles clearly state the firm will not be involved in "technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm", "weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people" or "technologies that gather or use information for surveillance."
However, the firm does leave space for potential government collaboration stating that Google "will continue our work with governments and the military in many other areas." Those areas, however, explained Google's post are ones that "keep service members and civilians safe."