A group of nearly 100 Microsoft workers signed a petition Friday calling on their employer to cancel a $480 million contract with the U.S. Army and to stop developing “any and all weapons technologies.”
Microsoft has agreed to sell the military its HoloLens headset, which allows users to see a virtually augmented version of reality. Contract bidding documents indicate the Army intends to use the gear as part of its Integrated Visual Augmentation System for both training and battlefield situations to improve soldiers’ “lethality, mobility, and situational awareness.”
“We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” says the employee petition, arguing that when the HoloLens headset is “deployed on the battlefield,” it will turn “warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.”
In a response statement Friday, Microsoft said it appreciated workers’ input but will continue working with the military.
A similar intra-company conflict at Google last year over technology used for drone strikes resulted in the resignation of about a dozen employees and protest from some 4,600 more. Google ultimately did not renew the defense contract at issue, saying it clashed with company values.