SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Some Microsoft Corps employees on Friday demanded that the company shut down a $ 480 million hardware contract to deliver the US Army, with 94 employees signing a petition asking the firm to stop developing "All weapon technologies.
A Microsoft store depicted in New York City, New York, USA, August 21, 2018. REUTERS / Carlo Allegri / File Photo
The organizational effort, described by Reuters of three Microsoft employees, offers the latest example in the last year of tech employees protesting collaboration with governments on new technologies.
Microsoft won a contract in November to deliver the army with at least 2500 prototypes of magnified reality headsets, which digitally display contextual information in front of the user's eyes. The government has said the units will be used on the battlefield and in training to improve the soldiers "mortality, mobility and situational awareness."
I petis The ion of Microsoft executives, posted on Twitter, told the workers that they "did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand an expression of how our work is being used. "They urged the company to develop" a publicly acceptable utility policy "for its technology and an external audit forum for public enforcement.
Microsoft said in a statement that it always appreciated employee feedback. in October by his president, Brad Smith, where he said the company was obliged to assist the military and would commit to laws to ensure responsible use of new technology.
The US Army did not give immediate comment.
Shares in Microsoft fell 7 cents to $ 110.90 after hours on Friday
Although many governments want to draw on the expertise of the largest US technology companies, employee resistance has added a new challenge to already complex issues.
Worker pushback led Alphabet Inc last year to announce that it would not renew a Pentagon contract where its artificial intelligence technology is used to analyze drone images.
In other cases, employee criticism has invited greater public scrutiny of agreements, such as $ 10 billion cloud computing contracts, yet to be awarded and various contracts with US immigration and customs prosecution.
A Microsoft employee, who spoke because of anonymity, said it was unclear whether some of the leading plaintiffs' work was part of the army contract. Another said several organizers are working in the company's cloud computing division, competing with rivals Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services for more government work.
Microsoft is expected to unveil updates to HoloLens, the corporate and government headset, during an event at the World Trade Congress conference in Barcelona on Sunday.
Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Richard Chang and Cynthia Osterman