Google announced a new deal with the Pentagon.


James Martin/CNET

Google on Wednesday announced a deal with the US Department of Defense to build cloud technology to help detect and respond to cyber threats. Google declined to disclose the terms of the deal, but said the sum was in the “seven figures.”

The contract is through the Defense Innovation Unit, a group within the Pentagon that scales commercial technology through the entire department. Axios earlier reported the news.

The deal comes as Google has faced controversy for its work with the military, especially from the company’s rank-and-file employees. Two years ago, workers at the search giant protested Google’s contract with the Pentagon for Project Maven, an initiative that uses artificial intelligence to improve the analysis of drone footage. Thousands of workers signed a petition opposing the contract, and a handful of employees resigned in protest.

Google said it would not renew the contract. CEO Sundar Pichai also released a set of ethical principles for the company’s AI work. The guidelines said the company wouldn’t develop AI for weapons, but would still pursue contracts with the military. Later that year, Google said it dropped out of bidding for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, a $10 billion cloud computing deal for the Pentagon.

Google said the deal announced Tuesday would provide the Defense Department with virtual firewalls and more controlled access to managed and unmanaged apps in the cloud. 

The contract also comes as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who left his post as a technical advisor to Google parent Alphabet in February, steps up his work with the military. He chairs the Defense Innovation Board, an advisory group aimed at bringing new technology to the Pentagon, including advancements in machine learning. He’s also chairman of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which advises Congress on AI for defense.

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