29 octobre 2018 | International, C4ISR

Microsoft, Amazon pledge to work with Pentagon following anonymous online rebukes

By Aaron Gregg

Microsoft executives launched a spirited defense of their work with the U.S. military on Friday in a blog post written by company president Brad Smith, who pledged to work with Pentagon as it embarks on a multibillion-dollar effort to build advanced artificial intelligence capabilities into its operations. Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos offered a similar statement last week at a conference in San Francisco hosted by Wired Magazine.

“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos said at the conference. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The two companies are responding to a broader wave of discontent that has complicated the efforts of Silicon Valley tech companies to work with the military. Search giant Google recently announced it would disallow its advanced algorithms to be used in weapons systems, and separately said it would decline to bid on a $10 billion opportunity to build the Pentagon's departmentwide cloud computing infrastructure.

That contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or “JEDI” for short, is designed to give the Pentagon access to new weapons capabilities that are enabled by artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle submitted bids by the Oct. 12 deadline, company spokespeople confirmed this week, and the Defense Department is expected to award a contract next year. Amazon is seen as a front-runner because of its earlier work handling classified data for the CIA.

The retorts by the executives followed a pair of anonymously written 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.

The Post could not independently verify the authenticity of the two Medium posts. A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company could not verify the Medium post's authenticity, and an Amazon spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a blog post titled “Technology and the U.S. military” that was published Friday on Microsoft's website, Smith wrote that the company would continue to work with the U.S. military while looking for ways to ensure its technology is used responsibly.

“To withdraw from this market is to reduce our opportunity to engage in the public debate about how new technologies can best be used in a responsible way,” Smith wrote. "We are not going to withdraw from the future.”

Full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/10/26/microsoft-amazon-pledge-work-with-pentagon-following-anonymous-online-rebukes

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