Google pulls out of $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract over AI concerns

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A Microsoft logo is seen in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 7, 2017.

Google has chose to drop out of the bidding for the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year cloud computing project because it may conflict with its "corporate values".

Amazon was widely viewed among Pentagon officials and technology vendors as the front-runner for the contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI.

The plane would have data that is now held by contractors move to a cloud solution, and tech companies including Google, Amazon and Microsoft were stepping up to be part of it.

Bloomberg reported Monday that the Mountain View, California, search engine giant was pulling out of the competition for two reasons: not all of its government cloud-security certifications align with the scope of the contract, known as JEDI, and the work may conflict with a new set of company principles created to steer what kind of artificial intelligence work Google will undertake.

In June, Sundar Pichai wrote a blog describing Google's AI principles and specified that "we are not developing AI for use in weapons".

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Google dropped out shortly after it was reported that the company had decided not to disclose a data breach involving users of its Google+ social network earlier this year.

Microsoft will also bring online Azure Government Secret regions in the first quarter of 2019 to service federal agencies handling classified data and highly sensitive workloads for the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies.

Just four months ago Google saw quite some resistance to its involvement in the Pentagon's controversial artificial intelligence (AI) drone program Project Maven.

Google chose to withdraw because the contract may conflict with its corporate values, and its principles over the ethical use of AI. Final requirements for the project were released in July after a months-long lobbying campaign in Washington by tech companies including Microsoft, International Business Machines Corp. and Oracle Corp. that opposed the Pentagon's plans to choose just one victor for the project instead of splitting the contract among a number of providers. The move increases pressure on the Defense Department to defend its requirements for the contract. And also the fact that they had doubts they would be able to get the necessary certifications.

Gordy mentions the "countless concerns" that have surfaced contending that JEDI was written for a "specific vendor" - a thinly veiled shot at Amazon Web Services. Recently, the Office of Management and Budget issued a new government-wide cloud strategy, "cloud smart", that specifically emphasizes the need for multi-cloud and hybrid solutions and calls for a "technology neutral" approach.

"We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirement", Google added in its statement.

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