Google has withdrawn from the competition for a Defense Department cloud computing contract worth as much as $10 billion, saying the project may conflict with its principles for ethical use of AI.
The project, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI, involves moving massive amounts of Pentagon internal data and processing power to a commercially operated cloud system.
"We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn't be assured that it would align with our AI Principles," a Google spokesman said in a statement. "And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications."
The decision to drop out of the bidding comes after thousands of Google employees protested the company's involvement in another US government project. Some Google employees reportedly quit over the company's work on Project Maven, a drone initiative for the US government that could weaponize their AI research.
Shortly after the protest over Maven, Google said it would not renew the contract or pursue similar military contracts. Google CEO Sundar Pichai also released a set of ethical guidelines for Google to follow as it continues to develop artificial intelligence. Among the guidelines: Google won't create AI for weapons, but it will still work with the military.
Google isn't the only major tech company working with parts of the US military. Amazon provides image recognition tech to the Defense Department, and Microsoft offers cloud services to military and defense agencies.
"We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirement," Google said.
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