New records show Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have thousands of previously unreported military and law enforcement contracts

  • New research shows that Silicon Valley companies have thousands of previously-unreported subcontracts with the US military and federal law enforcement including ICE and the FBI.
  • The subcontracts were surfaced through open records requests filed by Jack Paulson, a former Google researcher who previously joined coworkers to pressure the company not to work with the Pentagon.
  • Microsoft has more than 5,000 previously unreported subcontracts with the Department of Defense and federal law enforcement. Amazon and Google each have hundreds of similar subcontracts, records show.
  • Rank-and-file tech employees have pressured their employers to drop military contracts in recent years. Google dropped one Pentagon subcontract dubbed Project Maven after employee uproar in 2018.
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Ties between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon are deeper than previously known, according to thousands of previously unreported subcontracts published Wednesday.
The subcontracts were obtained through open records requests by accountability nonprofit Tech Inquiry. They show that tech giants including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have secured more than 5,000 agreements with agencies including the Department of Defense, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the FBI.

Tech workers in recent years have pressured their employers to drop contracts with law enforcement and the military.

Google workers revolted in 2018 after Gizmodo revealed that Google was building artificial intelligence for drone targeting through a subcontract with the Pentagon — after some employees quit in protest, Google agreed not to renew the contract. Employees at Amazon and Microsoft have petitioned both companies to drop their contracts with ICE and the military, but neither company has caved to the demands. The newly-surfaced subcontracts published by Tech Inquiry show that the companies' connections to the Pentagon run deeper than many employees were previously aware. Tech Inquiry's research was led by Jack Poulson, a former Google researcher who left the company in 2018.
"Often the high-level contract description between tech companies and the military looks very vanilla and mundane," Poulson told NBC News. "But only when you look at the details of the contract, which you can only get through Freedom of Information [Act] requests, do you see the workings of how the customization from a tech company would actually be involved."Subcontracts come about when one contractor can't carry out all the duties of their federal contract and hires a third party to fulfill certain aspects. In many cases, military and law enforcement contractors subcontracted with Google, Amazon, and Microsoft for services like cloud computing and data processing.The research shows that Microsoft has over 5,000 subcontracts with law enforcement, while Amazon and Google each have several hundred subcontracts.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment.

Representatives for Google and Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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