Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has defended the company's decision to sign a $479m contract to supply augmented reality (AR) HoloLens to the US Army, saying that the company would not "withhold technology" from democratic governments.
Employees who are part of the organization Microsoft Workers 4 Good recently penned a letter to the tech giant demanding it ends the contract, claiming that "intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology". The group insisted that Microsoft listened to their concerns and cancelled the IVAS contract, halt development of any weapons technology and appoint an independent, external ethics review board to ensure the company would comply.
More than 100 Microsoft employees have signed the letter so far, according to the group's leaders.
Nadella responded to the group's demands by stating that he would continue to communicate with employees and consider Microsoft's role as a corporate citizen. However, he told CNN Business: "We made a principled decision that we're not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy.
"We were very transparent about that decision and we'll continue to have that dialogue [with employees]," he added.
Microsoft was awarded the contract in November 2018, with the aim to equip the fighting force with up to 100,000 prototypes of HoloLens AR headsets which would be used to "increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy".