In Silicon Valley, whether tech companies should become involved in projects with the military and federal law enforcement has flared up controversy among employees.
'First, we believe that the people who defend our country need and deserve our support.
Smith said he understand that some of our employees may have different views.
The answer was clear: "when it comes to the US military, as a company, Microsoft will be engaged", Smith wrote in a blog post.
"Like those who took action at Google, Salesforce, and Amazon, we ask all employees of tech companies to ask how your work will be used, where it will be applied, and act according to your principles", the letter said.
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The debate about military AI among USA tech companies comes as the Pentagon is in a race with the Chinese government to develop next-generation security technologies. "We are going to continue to support the Department of Defense, and I think we should".
The retorts by the executives followed a pair of anonymously authored posts on the website Medium over the past month - both of which the site said had been verified by its editorial staff - in which self-described employees of Amazon and Microsoft raised concerns over the tech companies' relationship with the Defense Department. "As is always the case, if our employees want to work on a different project or team - for whatever reason - we want them to know we support talent mobility".
Yes, Microsoft will keep working with and for the Department of Defense, despite requests from employees to distance itself from work with the Pentagon.
Smith's letter followed an October 12 "Open Letter to Microsoft" purportedly signed by an unspecified number of Microsoft employees. He added that this also applies to artificial intelligence.
Amazon was widely viewed among Pentagon officials and technology vendors as the front-runner for the contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI.
In June, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai unveiled a set of principles on the company's use of artificial intelligence, saying that the company would not participate in "technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm" and would stay away from 'weapons or other technologies whose principal objective or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people.