They also asserted that Microsoft's ethics review process was "opaque" to employees and not strong enough to discourage weapon-related work. Smith had previously suggested that workers would be allowed to change positions if they objected to work on ethical grounds, but that doesn't help when those people aren't informed about the use of their projects. HoloLens team members thought they were helping engineers and scientists, and now they've been "implicated as war profiteers," according to the letter.
A petition to end the contract received over 100 signatures in its first day, although that's not necessarily representative of the number of people who object.
Microsoft might not budge on the subject. In a statement to Gizmodo, a spokesperson said the company gave "careful consideration" to the issue and referred to Smith's earlier remarks, where he said that Microsoft believed that the military needed "access to the nation's best technology." Microsoft was still actively addressing ethical and policy questions, the company added.
Whether or not things change, the letter contributes to a growing trend: tech workers want assurances that their products won't be intentionally sold for questionable purposes. Companies can't necessarily ignore complaints, either -- objections from Amazon staff over facial recognition technology helped fuel concerns from politicians and shareholders. Like it or not, tech firms may have to directly address these worries on a more frequent basis if they want to avoid turmoil in their ranks.