Home Security Google coders refuse to build tech for military projects

Software engineers in Google's cloud business flouted orders from their managers to build air-gapping into technology that would help the company win military contracts, a report claims.

The news agency Bloomberg cited four current and ex-employees as having said that these engineers were unconvinced that the company should be contributing technology to help the US fight wars.

Following the objections, Google top technical executive Urs Hölzle postponed work on the air gap feature, the report said, adding that the engineers had been able to reduce the effectiveness of the air-gapping technology.

In May, a dozen Google employees quit the company to protest against its involvement in a Pentagon initiative named Project Maven where Google's AI technology was being used to improve targeting by drones.

Google later said that it would not renew the contract to work on Maven, but gave no assurance that it would keep out of future similar projects.

The search giant is bidding to participate in a big Defence Department deal, the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure, or JEDI, program which has grown to be worth US$10 billion over a decade.

The Bloomberg report said Google was behind its rivals Microsoft and Amazon when it came to certifications, having only FedRAMP "Moderate" credentials. FedRAMP is the name for the US compliance standards for IT.

With Moderate credentials, Google could bid for 80% of US Government work; both Microsoft and Amazon have "High" credentials that enable them to work with all classes of data, including that created by intelligence agencies.

Amazon has a US$600 million contract with the CIA.

Air gap technology separates computers from others on a network and enables data from high-security projects to be isolated on a specific server.

Protests about the involvement of big tech companies in work that violates privacy and human rights have taken place at other companies too, with Microsoft facing blowback from its employees over its contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in the wake of the separation of migrant children from their parents at the Mexico-US border.

Recently, Amazon has been criticised by human rights groups for selling technology that supports facial recognition to law enforcement authorities.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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