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Google staff reportedly refused to work on government security tool

The tool could open up more military contracts to the company.
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Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg reports today that earlier this year, a group of Google employees refused to work on a security tool that would have opened up more military contracts to the company. The tool in question is air gap technology that would be key to the development of the secure cloud configurations required by government agencies. Without it, Google might be left in the "Moderate" security rating it has been granted by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, while others like Microsoft and Amazon have products with "High" ratings that give them access to additional contracts.

Current and former Google employees told Bloomberg that those against the project -- who became known as the "Group of Nine" -- had concerns about working on a tool that might help the government wage war. The sources also say that the engineers' refusal to work on the air gap technology helped spur other company protests, like the one formed in response to Google's Project Maven. Employees signed petitions against the military AI project, some even resigned because of it, and ultimately the company decided not to renew its Project Maven contract with the Pentagon.

Google isn't the only company facing pushback over government contracts. The ACLU delivered a petition to Amazon as well as a letter from 17 of its investors demanding it stop selling its facial recognition technology to law enforcement groups. And over at Microsoft, some employees are angry at the company's support of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

It's currently unclear where Google's air gap feature stands. We've reached out to the company and we'll update this post if we hear more.

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