The US Army and Microsoft recently entered in to a contract worth over $479 million dollars for an "integrated Visual Augmented System" with the HoloLens, but it turns out that not everybody is onboard with the latest deal. "We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used".
The letter was tweeted publicly on Friday by Microsoft Workers 4 Good, asking for more employees to sign.
Though many governments want to draw upon the expertise of the biggest USA tech companies, employee resistance has added a new challenge to already complicated relationships.
A Microsoft spokesman said, "We always appreciate feedback from employees and have many avenues for employee voices to be heard".
The U.S. Army did not provide immediate comment.
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The internal revolt at Microsoft highlights the heightened activism among employees at tech giants and follows similar uprisings at Amazon and Google, where workers have bristled over their companies' business relationships with the US military or law enforcement agencies. "The U.S. Army and the Israeli military have already used Microsoft's HoloLens devices in training, but plans for live combat would be a significant step forward", the report said. Last year, Google staffers also began circulating a letter calling on the search giant to end its involvement in a Pentagon project focused on using AI to analyze drone footage.
Like its peers, Microsoft has struggled to balance its relationship with the Defense Department against its employees' ethical and policy qualms about working with the US government.
Worker pushback led Alphabet Inc a year ago to announce it would not renew a Pentagon contract in which its artificial intelligence technology is used to analyze drone imagery. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Microsoft said it would allow employees to change positions within the company if they thought their existing roles betrayed their values. Microsoft president Brad Smith wrote a blog post which claimed that "it's an example of the kind of work we are committed to doing".
In the letter, first reported on and verified by The Washington Post, 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 holographic system is now being sold to developers and businesses, but is not yet available for public use. CEO Satya Nadella is expected to unveil the HoloLens 2 at the Mobile World Congress on Sunday in Barcelona.
The letter, which has now been signed by more than 50 employees, directly quotes the contact's objective, which is to create "a single platform that soldiers can use to fight, rehearse, and train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries".