Microsoft Workers Demand to Cancel U.S. Military Contract For AR Tech

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

"Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology," the Microsoft Workers 4 Good group stated in an open letter to company CEO Satya Nadella and Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith.

A group of Microsoft employees has called for the company to cancel its recent contract with the United States Army for the augmented reality technology called HoloLens.

In an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith posted on Friday, Microsoft Workers 4 Good — a group that bills itself as "a global coalition of Microsoft workers" — wrote, "We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built.”

"We always appreciate feedback from employees and provide many avenues for their voices to be heard," a Microsoft spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter in response to the letter. "In fact, we heard from many employees throughout the fall. As we said then, we’re committed to providing our technology to the U.S. Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army under this contract. As we’ve also said, we’ll remain engaged as an active corporate citizen in addressing the important ethical and public policy issues relating to AI and the military.”

In November, Microsoft won a $479 million contract from the U.S. Army to develop AR tech for the military branch, beating out competitors such as Magic Leap. 

Microsoft Workers 4 Good claims that the contract crosses the "line into weapons development" and that their HoloLens tech will be used to turn "warfare into a simulated 'video game.'" 

The HoloLens tech is a pair of goggles that users can wear that overlays a display of information onto real-world surroundings. The contract described the tech's usage for the aims of improving soldiers' "lethality, mobility, and situational awareness."

"Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology," the group stated in their open letter, preceding a list of demands from Nadella and Smith that included canceling the contract, ceasing any development on weapons technology and appointing an "independent, external ethics review board" to evaluate the situation. 

Nadella defended the contract in statements to CNN on Monday, saying, "We made a principled decision that we're not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy."