As Microsoft were rolling out HoloLens 2, their new mixed reality goggles, a group of employees rose up against the company's $479 million worth HoloLens contract with the US Army, arguing that they did not sign up to develop weapons.
Microsoft Workers 4 Good, which describes itself as a "global coalition of Microsoft's workers", has sent an open letter to Brad Smith and Satya Nadella, president and CEO, respectively, demanding that the $479 million Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) contract is stopped.
The group claims they never thought they will help "create technology for warfare and oppression" while working for Microsoft. "We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used."
Even though Microsoft have been licensing their technology to the US Army for ages, the letter states, this is the first time they've crossed over into weapons development.
"The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated 'video game,' further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed", the letter says.
They argued that Brad Smith's suggestion to simply relocate employees who are "concerned about working on unethical projects" ignores just about everyone who ever worked on the project.
"There are many engineers who contributed to HoloLens before this contract even existed, believing it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and cars, to help teach people how to perform surgery or play the piano, to push the boundaries of gaming, and to connect with the Mars Rover (RIP)", the letter states.
Instead, these employees are indirectly being made complicit in war profiteering, they claim.
Microsoft Workers 4 Good are demanding that Microsoft cancel the IVAS contract and stop developing "any and all weapons technologies", along with a clear policy for this sort of thing in the future.
They also demand formation of "an independent, external ethics review board with the power to enforce and publicly validate compliance with its acceptable use policy."