Instructor: Aleksi Aaltonen, Section 002

Google Removes Itself From $10B Pentagon Cloud Contract

The project known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud or JEDI, is a developing project of the pentagon in which massive amounts of government data are to be moved to cloud based. The Pentagon has elected partner with US-Based companies for obvious reason. Previously, Google had put their name in to be considered but recently removed that submission.

Google has said that its main reason for leaving is because the project conflicts with its principles for ethical use of AI. Google has also stated that components of the contract are out of scope of current government certifications. Employees at the company have protested it’s involvement in yet another US government project. After backing out of “Project Maven” in which google was using AI to build military grade drones for the US military, Google has taken a step back (for now).

Where do we draw the line between government & public tech companies? There are more than a few companies working on artificial intelligence and account massive amount of data into those projects. How can we trust companies to use government information in the right way? What classifies the “right” way and what happens when unintended outcomes take a wrong turn?

In our course, we study how information technology systems are integrated and implemented into a working business or organization. I am pressing further into the discussion and moving past the development of systems. I am posing the question of ethics in a system. This problem is becoming increasingly important as we consider our personal and physical safety.

2 Responses to Google Removes Itself From $10B Pentagon Cloud Contract

  • You raise a good point regarding the ethics involved in government institutions maintaining relationships with tech companies, namely the giants of the industry like Google or Apple. The fundamental question here is do we enforce a separation between these two entities similar to the regulatory separation of investment and commercial banks in the wake of the Great Depression, or do we allow the interactions to continue? To answer this question, one would need to assess their value system as it relates to political matters. How great of a threat, if at all, are corporatist practices such as giving government contracts to big companies? What are the implications of developments in defense technology if we forbid private collaboration in national security affairs? Is national security even a particularly pressing issue when it comes to developing technologies? How is information security degraded in these relationships, and how important or relevant is that to our collective welfare?

    Personally, I am of the view that no distinct line should be drawn between government and public tech companies, especially as they relate to DoD contracts. The value that private entities can inject into government operations has time and time again shown to be worthwhile, and a driving factor in innovation. With the apparently limitless budget that the federal government has, departments can drive the development of new products such as the DoD (in conjunction with private entities) did with the development of cellular phones and the internet.

  • Great deal of the Internet backbone technology came from defense related projects. Beyond ethics, Google might have other, more business related reason pull out – what do you think?

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