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Google's military cloud deal is still ruffling feathers internally

An abstract image of cloud storage.
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Marko Aliaksandr)

Google has confirmed it is still pursuing a multi-billion-dollar contract with the US Government’s Department of Defense (DoD).

During a recent all-hands company meeting, a question was raised that more than 1,000 of Google’s employees said they wanted answered: whether or not Google is actively pursuing the US government’s Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) program; and what makes this program different from the previous Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, for which Google said it didn’t want to bid for as it conflicted with its AI principles.

Explaining the difference, cloud boss Thomas Kurian said the company would be “proud” to work with the DoD, CNBC reported.

Vocal employee base

“If selected as one of the compliant vendors, we are proud to work with the DoD to help modernize their operations,” Kurian reportedly said. “There will be many areas where our product capabilities and our engineering expertise can be brought to bear with no conflict to Google’s AI principles.”

Google’s AI principles state the company will not pursue technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm; weapons, or other technologies designed specifically to hurt people; surveillance tech that “violates internationally accepted norms”, or technologies whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law.

Whether or not the majority of Google’s employees oppose this idea is yet to be seen. What we do know, is that Google’s employees are vocal and politically charged, and have no problem voicing their opinion or even quitting their job in protest.

Google’s Project Maven, for example, prompted the company’s employees to sign petitions against it, while some quit. Maven allowed the U.S. government to analyze drone video with AI.

“We understand that not every Googler will agree with this decision,” Kurian said. “But we believe Google Cloud should seek to serve the government where it is capable of doing so and where the work meets Google’s principles and our company’s values.”

Further explaining the company’s position in a blog post, Kurian said the JWCC was “essential to the success of the Department and the government in reducing costs, driving innovation, increasing productivity, and enhancing cybersecurity.”

As the government is yet to issue a request for a proposal, the details are scarce and Google hasn’t put in a bid just yet.

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