BARCELONA – Google announced it could bid for Pentagon contracts without violating its “don’t be evil” motto, citing its program to help private security firms fight the Islamic State.
Chung-En Lee, head of Google’s defense initiatives, said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that the company’s business interests were not in conflict with ethics.
“We intend to do business in the US,” Lee said in a panel discussion on Monday, according to a transcript. “That includes civilian contracts, and contracts with the government of the United States.”
The Pentagon said it was confident Google would continue to help it face global threats even if it became part of another company.
“While Google is clearly not perfect, I do believe they understand that the US military uses technology and, like all defense and security agencies, expects and expects the companies they contract with to meet high ethical standards,” said Laura Seal, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
US defence officials said over the past year Google had shown it understood what constituted ethical business practices and they were confident that Google would continue to play a positive role in safeguarding US national security.
The announcement came the day after US prosecutors said Google, part of Alphabet Inc, has faced more than $30 million in antitrust fines in two separate investigations over allegations of illegal business practices.
The company said it had a “zero tolerance” policy for predatory business practices that are anti-competitive and it strongly disagreed with the Justice Department’s allegations.
Alphabet spokesman Meghan Casserly declined to comment on the issue.
“Google has disclosed to the United States Department of Justice all of its communications and discussions in response to their request for information in connection with their antitrust investigation and the cases it has settled,” Casserly said.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Google’s latest comments.
Lawmakers from both parties said the charges against Google were troubling.
“Obviously, any company that’s trying to compete with the federal government should be held to the highest level of ethical conduct,” said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee.
“But I think it’s a very important responsibility for every company in the tech sector to say how they would act in a case like this,” Wyden added.
Republican Senator David Perdue said the company needs to explain how it can be trusted to bid for contracts.
“It’s got to be one and the same when they need to defend ourselves overseas,” he said.
The remarks came as Google agreed to acquire software maker ZenPayroll, highlighting the growing importance of its cloud services division to its business. The acquisition, the company’s second of 2018, was expected to close later this year, the company said.
Google also said it had created a project called Transparency Tracker to track spending by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency. The Pentagon hired defense contractor Raytheon to build a $3.2 billion radar system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) and plans to use it to protect US allies from ballistic missiles.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is part of the project, which has raised human rights concerns.
Lee, the Google defense executive, said Google had to move on similar contracts, but promised that it would not turn on US contractors that had already faced allegations of human rights abuses.
He referred to a “transparency” request sent by US prosecutors to Alphabet asking how it vets contractors for malign influence, corruption and other harms, including paying underage workers. The text of the letter was seen by Reuters.
“We’re not looking to do business with companies that violate our values, and we will not do business with companies that do,” Lee said.