Tech giants, including Google, Amazon and Microsoft, have secured more than 5,000 previously unreported contracts with military and federal law enforcement, data published on Wednesday shows.
According to accountability nonprofit, Tech Inquiry, some of those contracts have been with the Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the FBI.
The research was led by Jack Poulson, a former Google research scientist who quit the company in 2018.
Tech giants, including Google, Amazon and Microsoft, have secured more than 5,000 previously unreported contracts with military and federal law enforcement. Microsoft (file image) has 5,000 subcontracts alone
According to NBC News, Poulson left the company after months of internal campaigning to get clarity about Google’s plans to deploy a censored version of its search engine in China called Project Dragonfly.
He has also stood on the opposing side when it comes down to collaborations between tech companies and the military.
Poulson’s research consists of the analysis of more than 30 million government contracts within the past five years.
Of those, Microsoft was found to have more than 5,000 subcontracts with the Department of Defense and various federal law enforcement agencies since 2016.
‘Often the high-level contract description between tech companies and the military looks very vanilla and mundane,’ Poulson told NBC News.
‘But only when you look at the details of the contract, which you can only get through Freedom of Information [Act] requests, do you see the workings of how the customization from a tech company would actually be involved.’
According to Tech Inquiry’s analysis, Amazon has agreed to more than 350 subcontracts with the military and federal law enforcement agencies, like ICE and the FBI, since 2016.
Meanwhile, Google has more than 250 previously unreported contracts.
Ted Ladd, a Google Cloud spokesperson, told NBC that the company remains ‘committed to partnering with the government on projects that are consistent with our terms of service, acceptable use policies, and AI Principles’.
Employees of tech giants like Google, have protested against contracts that bolster military activity.
For example, Project Maven, which seeks to incorporate AI technology on the battlefield, first attracted the attention of Google, but the firm backed out of its contract in 2018 after worldwide upheaval from its employees.
The US military has been looking to incorporate elements of artificial intelligence and machine learning into its drone program.
Project Maven, as the effort is known, aims to provide some relief to military analysts who are part of the war against Islamic State.
These analysts currently spend long hours staring at big screens reviewing video feeds from drones as part of the hunt for insurgents in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon is trying to develop algorithms that would sort through the material and alert analysts to important finds, according to Air Force Lieutenant General John N.T. ‘Jack’ Shanahan, director for defense intelligence for warfighting support.
The hope is that it will not only result in fewer casualties, but also provide some relief to military analysts whose job it is to spend long hours staring at big screens reviewing video feeds from drones.