Inside Google’s Quest to Digitize Troops’ Tissue Samples

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In early February 2016, the safety gate at a U.S. navy base close to Washington, D.C., swung open to confess a Navy physician accompanying a pair of peculiar guests: two synthetic intelligence scientists from Google.

In a cavernous, temperature-controlled warehouse on the Joint Pathology Middle, they stood amid stacks holding the crown jewels of the middle’s assortment: tens of thousands and thousands of pathology slides containing slivers of pores and skin, tumor biopsies and slices of organs from armed service members and veterans.

Standing with their Navy sponsor behind them, the Google scientists posed for {a photograph}, beaming.

Largely unknown to the general public, the trove and the employees who examine it have lengthy been regarded in pathology circles as very important nationwide assets: Scientists used a useless soldier’s specimen that was archived right here to carry out the primary genetic sequencing of the 1918 Flu.

Google had a confidential plan to show the gathering of slides into an immense archive that — with the assistance of the corporate’s burgeoning, and probably worthwhile, AI enterprise — may assist create instruments to assist the prognosis and remedy of most cancers and different illnesses. And it will search first, unique dibs to take action.

“The chief concern,” Google’s liaison within the navy warned the leaders of the repository, “is protecting this out of the press.”

Greater than six years later, Google continues to be laboring to show this huge assortment of human specimens into digital gold.

A minimum of a dozen Protection Division employees members have raised moral or authorized considerations about Google’s quest for service members’ medical information and in regards to the conduct of its navy supporters, information reviewed by ProPublica present. Underlying their complaints are considerations about privateness, favoritism and the personal use of a delicate authorities useful resource in a time when AI in well being care exhibits each nice promise and danger. And a few of them nervous that Google was upending the middle’s personal pilot undertaking to digitize its assortment for future AI use.

Pathology consultants acquainted with the gathering say the middle’s leaders have good motive to be cautious about partnerships with AI corporations. “Nicely designed, accurately validated and ethically carried out [health algorithms] might be game-changing issues,” stated Dr. Monica E. de Baca, chair of the Faculty of American Pathologists’ Council on Informatics and Pathology Innovation. “However till we determine how to do this properly, I’m nervous that — knowingly or unknowingly — there can be an terrible lot of snake oil bought.”

When it wasn’t chosen to participate in JPC’s pilot undertaking, Google pulled levers within the higher reaches of the Pentagon and in Congress. This yr, after lobbying by Google, employees on the Home Armed Providers Committee quietly inserted language right into a report accompanying the Protection Authorization Act that raises doubts in regards to the pathology middle’s modernization efforts whereas offering a path for the tech big to land future AI work with the middle.

Pathology consultants name the JPC assortment a nationwide treasure, distinctive in its age, measurement and breadth. The archive holds greater than 31 million blocks of human tissue and 55 million slides. More moderen specimens are linked with detailed affected person data, together with pathologist annotations and case histories. And the repository holds many examples of “edge instances” — illnesses so vanishingly uncommon that many pathologists by no means see them.

Google sought to assemble so many figuring out particulars in regards to the specimens and sufferers that the repository’s leaders feared it will compromise sufferers’ anonymity. Discussions turned so contentious in 2017 that the leaders of the JPC broke them off.

In an interview with ProPublica, retired Col. Clayton Simon, the previous director of the JPC, stated Google needed greater than the pathology middle felt it may present. “Finally, even by negotiations, we have been unable to discover a pathway that we legally may do and ethically ought to do,” Simon stated. “And the partnership dissolved.”

However Google didn’t hand over. Final yr, the middle’s present director, Col. Joel Moncur, in response to questions from DOD attorneys, warned that the actions of Google’s chief analysis associate within the navy “may trigger a breach of affected person privateness and will result in a scandal that adversely impacts the navy.”

Google has informed the navy that the JPC assortment holds the “uncooked supplies” for probably the most important biotechnology breakthroughs of this decade — “on par with the Human Genome Venture in its potential for strategic, medical, and financial impression.”

All of that made the cache an alluring goal for any firm hoping to develop well being care algorithms. Huge portions of medical information are wanted to design algorithmic fashions that may establish patterns a pathologist may miss — and Google and different corporations are in a race to assemble them. Solely a handful of tech corporations have the dimensions to scan, retailer and analyze a set of this magnitude on their very own. Firms which have submitted plans to compete for points of the middle’s modernization undertaking embrace Amazon Internet Providers, Cerner Corp. and a number of small AI corporations.

However no firm has been as aggressive as Google, whose guardian firm, Alphabet, has beforehand drawn hearth for its efforts to assemble and crunch medical information. In the UK, regulators reprimanded a hospital in 2017 for offering information on greater than 1.6 million sufferers, with out their understanding, to Alphabet’s AI unit, DeepMind. In 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google had a secret deal, dubbed “Venture Nightingale,” with a Catholic well being care system that gave it entry to information on thousands and thousands of sufferers in 21 states, additionally with out the information of sufferers or docs. Google responded to the Journal story in a blog post that said that affected person information “can not and won’t be mixed with any Google shopper information.”

In a press release, Ted Ladd, a Google spokesperson, attributed the ethics complaints related to its efforts to work with the repository to an “inter-agency problem” and a “personnel dispute.”

“We had hoped to allow the JPC to digitize its information and, with its permission, develop pc fashions that may allow researchers and clinicians to enhance prognosis for cancers and different diseases,” Ladd stated, noting that every one of Google’s well being care partnerships contain “the strictest controls” over information. “Our clients personal and handle their information, and we can not — and don’t — use it for any objective apart from explicitly agreed upon by the client,” Ladd stated.

In response to questions from ProPublica, the JPC stated none of its de-identified information could be shared throughout its modernization course of except it met the moral, regulatory, and authorized approvals wanted to make sure it was accomplished in the fitting method.

“The best precedence of the JPC’s digital transformation is to make sure that any de-identified digital slides are used ethically and in a fashion that protects affected person privateness and navy safety,” the JPC stated.

However some concern that even these safeguards won’t be sufficient. Steven French, a DOD cloud computing engineer assigned to the undertaking, stated he was dismayed by the relentlessness of Google’s advocates within the division. Misplaced in all their discussions in regards to the velocity, scale and cost-saving advantages related to working with Google appeared to be considerations for the pursuits of the service members whose tissue was the topic of all this maneuvering, French informed ProPublica.

“It felt actually dangerous to me,” French stated. “Like a gradual crush in direction of the inevitability of some massive tech firm monetizing it.”

The JPC actually does need assistance from tech corporations. Underfunded by Congress and lengthy uncared for by the Pentagon, it’s susceptible to affords from well-funded rescuers. Regardless of its leaders’ pleas, funding for a full-scale modernization undertaking has by no means materialized. The pathology middle’s getting old warehouses have been stricken with water leaks and unwelcome intruders: a marauding household of raccoons.

The story of the pathology middle’s lengthy, contentious battle with Google has by no means been informed earlier than. ProPublica’s account is predicated on inner emails, shows and memos, in addition to interviews with present and former DOD officers, a few of whom requested to not be recognized as a result of they weren’t licensed to debate the matter or for concern of retribution.

Google’s Non-public Tour

In December 2015, Google started its courtship of the JPC with a daring, unsolicited proposal. The messenger was a junior naval officer, Lt. Cmdr. Niels Olson.

“I’m working with Google on a undertaking to use machine studying to medical imaging,” Olson wrote to the leaders of the repository. “And it looks as if we’re on the stage the place we have to determine precisely what JPC has.”

A United States Naval Academy physics main and Tulane medical faculty graduate, Olson labored as a medical and anatomical pathology resident on the Naval Medical Middle in San Diego.

With digitized specimen slides holding huge quantities of information, pathology appeared ripe for the approaching AI revolution in drugs, he believed. Olson’s personal urgency was heightened in 2014 when his father was recognized with prostate most cancers.

That yr, Olson teamed up with scientists at Google to coach software program to acknowledge suspected most cancers cells. Google provided experience together with AI scientists and high-speed, high-resolution scanners. The endeavor had cleared all privateness and evaluation board hurdles. They have been scanning Navy sufferers’ pathology slides at a livid clip, however they wanted a bigger information set to validate their findings.

Enter the JPC’s archive. Olson realized in regards to the middle in medical faculty. In his e mail to its leaders in December 2015, Olson hooked up Google’s eight-page proposal.

Google provided to begin the operation by coaching algorithms with already digitized information within the repository. And it will do that early work “with no alternate of funds.” All these partnerships free the personal events from having to bear a aggressive bidding course of.

Google promised to do the work in a fashion that balanced “privateness and moral concerns.” The federal government, beneath the proposal, would personal and management the slides and information.

Olson typed a warning: “That is beneath a non-disclosure settlement with Google, so I have to ask you, do please deal with this data appropriately. The chief concern is protecting this out of the press.”

Senior navy and civilian employees on the pathology middle reacted with alarm. Dr. Francisco Rentas, the top of the archive’s tissue operations, pushed again towards the notion of sharing the info with Google.

“As , we’ve got the biggest pathology repository on the planet and a number of entities will like to get their fingers on it, together with Google opponents. How can we overcome that?” Rentas requested in an e mail.

Different leaders had related reactions. “My considerations are raised once I’m suggested to not disclose what appears to be a contractual relationship to the press,” one of many high managers on the pathology middle, Col. Edward Stevens, informed Olson. Stevens informed Olson that giving Google entry to this data with out a aggressive bid may end in litigation from the corporate’s opponents. Stevens requested: “Does this have to undergo an open-source bid?”

However even with these considerations, Simon, the pathology middle’s director, was intrigued sufficient to proceed discussions. He invited Olson and Google to examine the ability.

The warehouse Olson and the Google scientists entered may have served as a set for the ultimate scene of “Raiders of Misplaced Ark.”

Pathology slides have been stacked in aisle canyons, some towering two tales. The slides have been organized in steel trays and cardboard containers. To entry tissue samples, the repository used a retrieval system just like these present in dry cleaners. The pathology middle had only a handful of working scanners. On the tempo they have been going, it will take centuries to digitize your complete assortment.

One particular person acquainted with the repository likened it to the Library of Alexandria, which held the biggest archive of data within the historical world. Fantasy held that the library was destroyed in a cataclysmic hearth lit by Roman invaders, however historians imagine the actual killer was gradual decay and neglect over centuries.

The navy’s tissue library had already performed an vital position within the development of medical information. Its beginning in 1862 because the Military Medical Museum was grisly. In a blandly written order within the midst of the Civil Conflict, the Military surgeon basic instructed surgeons “diligently to gather and protect” all specimens of “morbid anatomy, surgical or medical, which can be thought to be useful.”

Quickly the museum’s curator was digging by battlefield trenches to seek out “many a putrid heap” of fingers, toes and different physique components ravaged by illness and struggle. He and different docs shipped the stays to Washington in whiskey-filled casks.

Over the following 160 years, the tissue assortment outgrew a number of headquarters, together with Washington’s Ford Theater and a nuclear-bomb-proof constructing close to the White Home. However the principle mission — figuring out, learning and lowering the calamitous impression of diseases and accidents afflicting service members — has remained unchanged in instances of struggle and peace. Every time a navy or veterans’ hospital pathologist despatched a tissue pattern to the pathology middle for a second opinion, it was filed away within the repository.

Because the archive expanded, the repository’s status grew. Its scientists spurred advances in microscopy, most cancers and tropical illness analysis. An institute pathologist named Walter Reed proved that mosquitoes transmit yellow fever, an vital discovery within the historical past of medication.

For a lot of its fashionable historical past, along with serving navy and veterans hospitals, the middle additionally offered civilian consultations. The work with elite educating hospitals gave the middle a luster that helped it appeal to and retain high pathologists.

Congress and DOD leaders questioned why the navy ought to fund civilian work that might be accomplished elsewhere. In 2005, beneath the congressionally mandated base closure act, the Pentagon ordered the group working the repository to close down. The group reopened with a special overseer, tasked with a narrower, military-focused mission. Uncertainty in regards to the group’s future brought on many high pathologists to go away.

In its first pitch to the repository’s leaders, Google pointedly talked about a book-length Institute of Drugs report on the repository that said that “extensive entry” to the archive’s supplies would promote the “public good.” The biorepository wasn’t dwelling as much as its potential, Google stated, noting that “no main efforts have been underway to repair the issue.”

Following the tour, a Google scientist ready an inventory of medical, demographic and affected person data it sought from the repository. The listing included “necessities” — case diagnoses; pathology and radiology photographs; data on gender and ethnicity; and beginning and loss of life dates — in addition to “high-value” affected person data, together with comorbidities, subsequent hospitalizations and explanation for loss of life.

This troubled the JPC’s director. “We felt very, very involved about giving an excessive amount of information to them,” Simon informed ProPublica, “as a result of an excessive amount of information may establish the affected person.”

There have been different points about Google’s supply that made it “very unfavorable to the federal authorities,” Simon later informed his successor, in response to an e mail reviewed by ProPublica.

In alternate for scanning and digitizing the slide assortment at its personal expense, Google sought “unique entry” to the info for no less than 4 years.

The opposite deal-breaker was Google’s requirement that it be capable of cost the federal government to retailer and entry the digitized data, an enormous monetary dedication. Simon didn’t have the authority to commit the federal government to future funds to an organization with out authorization from Congress.

Right now, Ladd, the Google spokesperson, disputes the declare that its proposal would have been unfavorable to the federal government. “Our purpose was to assist the federal government digitize the info earlier than it bodily deteriorates.”

Ladd stated Google sought unique entry to the info through the early levels of the undertaking, in order that it may scan the de-identified samples and carry out quality-control measures on the info previous to handing it again to the JPC.

Niels Olson, who spearheaded the undertaking for the Navy in 2016, declined requests for interviews with ProPublica. However Jackson Stephens, a pal and lawyer who’s representing Olson, stated Olson had at all times adopted the Institutional Evaluation Board course of and labored to anonymize affected person medical information earlier than it was utilized in analysis or shared with a 3rd social gathering.

“Niels takes his oath to the Structure and his Hippocratic oath very severely,” Stephens stated. “He loves science, however his first obligation of care is to his sufferers.”

Google’s relentlessness in 2017, too, spooked the repository’s leaders, in response to an e mail reviewed by ProPublica. Google’s lawyer put “stress” on the top of tissue operations to signal the settlement, which he declined to do. Leaders of the middle turned “uncomfortable” and discontinued discussions, in response to the DOD e mail.

Although he banged on doorways within the Pentagon and Congress, Simon was not in a position to persuade the Obama administration to incorporate the JPC in then-Vice President Joe Biden’s Most cancers Moonshot. Simon left the JPC in 2018, his hopes for a modernization of the library dashed. However then a Pentagon advisory board obtained wind of the JPC assortment, and every part modified.

“The Smartest Folks on Earth”

In March of 2020, the Protection Innovation Board introduced a collection of suggestions to digitize the JPC assortment. The board known as for a pilot undertaking to scan a big preliminary batch of slides — no less than 1 million within the first yr — as a prelude to the large endeavor of digitizing all 55 million slides.

“My worldview was that this ought to be one of many highest priorities of the Protection Division,” William Bushman, then performing deputy undersecretary of personnel and readiness, informed ProPublica. “It has the potential to avoid wasting extra lives than the rest being accomplished within the division.”

Because the pathology middle ready to launch its pilot, the employees talked a few scandal that occurred simply 40 miles north.

Henrietta Lacks was a Black girl who died of most cancers in 1951 whereas being handled at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital. With out her or her household’s information or consent, and with out compensation, her cells have been replicated and commercialized, resulting in groundbreaking advances in drugs but in addition federal reforms on the usage of affected person cells for analysis.

Like Lacks’ most cancers cells, each specimen within the archive, the JPC crew knew, represented its personal story of human mortality and vulnerability. The tissue got here from veterans and present service members prepared to place their lives on the road for his or her nation. A lot of the samples got here from sufferers whose docs found ominous indicators from biopsies after which despatched the specimens to the middle for second opinions. Few signed consent types agreeing to have their samples utilized in medical analysis.

The pathology middle employed two consultants in AI ethics to develop moral, authorized and regulatory tips. In the meantime, the stress to cooperate with Google hadn’t gone away.

In the summertime of 2020, as COVID-19 surged throughout the nation, Olson was stationed at a naval lab in Guam, engaged on an AI undertaking to detect the coronavirus. That undertaking was managed by a navy group based mostly out of Silicon Valley generally known as the Protection Innovation Unit, a separate effort to hurry the navy’s growth and adoption of cutting-edge know-how. Although the group labored with many tech corporations, it had gained a status for being cozy with Google. The DIU’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, sat simply throughout the road from the Googleplex, the tech big’s headquarters. Olson joined the group formally that August.

Olson’s COVID-19 work earned him Navy Times’ coveted Sailor of the Year award in addition to the eye of a person who would turn into a robust ally within the DOD, Thomas “Pat” Flanders.

Flanders was the chief data officer of the sprawling Protection Well being Company, which oversaw the navy’s medical companies, together with hospitals and clinics. A garrulous Military veteran, Flanders questioned the knowledge of working the pilot undertaking with out first getting funding to scan the entire 55 million slides. He needed the pathology employees to listen to in regards to the work Olson and Google had accomplished scanning pathology slides in San Diego and see if an analogous public-private partnership might be cast with the JPC.

Over the objections of Moncur, the JPC’s director, Flanders insisted on having Olson attend all of the pathology middle’s conferences to debate the pilot, in response to inner emails.

In August 2020, the JPC printed a request for data from distributors keen on collaborating within the pilot undertaking. The phrases of that request specified that no suggestions could be given to corporations about their submissions and that phone inquiries wouldn’t be accepted or acknowledged. Such conversations might be seen as favoritism and will result in a protest by opponents who didn’t get this privilege.

However Flanders insisted that assembly Google was acceptable, in response to Moncur’s statements to DOD attorneys.

In a video convention name, Flanders informed the Google representatives they have been “the neatest individuals on earth” and stated he couldn’t imagine he was “getting to fulfill them without cost,” in response to written accounts of the assembly offered to DOD attorneys.

Flanders requested Google to clarify its enterprise mannequin, saying he needed to see how each the federal government and firm may revenue from the middle’s information in order that he may affect the necessities on the federal government facet — a comment that left even the Google representatives “speechless,” in response to a compilation of considerations raised by DOD staffers.

To Moncur and others in attendance, Flanders was actively negotiating with Google, in response to Moncur’s assertion to DOD attorneys.

To the astonishment of the middle employees, Flanders requested for a second assembly between Google and the JPC crew.

Concern about Flanders’ conduct echoed in different components of the DOD. A lawyer for Protection Digital Service, a crew of software program engineers, information scientists and product managers assigned to help on the undertaking, wrote that Flanders ignored authorized warnings. He described Flanders as a “cowboy” who regardless of warnings about his conduct was not going “to fall out of affection with Google.”

In an interview with ProPublica, Flanders disputed claims that he was biased towards Google. Flanders stated his focus has at all times been on scanning and storing the slides as shortly and economically as doable. As for his lavish reward of Google, Flanders stated he was merely making an attempt to be “form” to the corporate’s representatives.

“Folks took offense to that,” Flanders stated. “It’s simply actually pettiness on the half of people that couldn’t get alongside, actually.”

A spokesperson for the Protection Well being Company stated it was “completely acceptable” for Flanders to ask Google about its enterprise mannequin. “That is a part of market analysis,” the spokesperson wrote, including that no negotiation occurred on the assembly and that every one authorities stakeholders had been invited to attend.

Moncur referred calls to a JPC spokesperson. A spokesperson for the JPC stated in a press release that “Moncur was involved about assembly with distributors through the RFI interval.”

“An Arm of Google”

In late 2020, the modernization crew acquired extra troubling information. In a slide presentation for the JPC describing different AI work with Google and the navy, Olson disclosed that the corporate had “made affords of employment, which I’ve declined.” However then he instructed the supply is perhaps revived sooner or later, writing, “we mutually agreed to desk the matter.” He stated he had “no different conflicts of curiosity to declare.” Google informed ProPublica it had by no means straight made Olson a job supply, although a temp company it used did.

Extra info surfaced. Olson additionally had a Google company e mail handle. And he had entry to Google company recordsdata, in response to inner communications from involved DOD employees members. Google stated it’s common for its analysis companions within the authorities to have these privileges.

“I’m extra nervous than ever that DIU’s affect will destroy this acquisition,” a DOD lawyer wrote, referring to efforts to seek out distributors for the pilot undertaking. He known as DIU “basically an arm of Google.”

On the time, a DIU lawyer defended Olson. The lawyer stated Olson had “no additional battle of curiosity points” and had accomplished nothing improper as a result of the job supply had been made three years earlier, in 2017. An ethics officer on the DOD Requirements of Conduct Workplace agreed.

Right now, a spokesperson within the Workplace of the Secretary of Protection informed ProPublica the division was dedicated to modernizing the repository “whereas fastidiously observing all relevant authorized and moral guidelines.”

Olson’s pal and lawyer, Stephens, stated Olson had been upfront, disclosing the job supply to the innovation unit’s lawyer in addition to within the conflict-of-interest part of his slide presentation. He stated Olson had declined the supply, which was withdrawn. “He’s not some form of Google undercover agent.”

Stephens stated the JPC would have been a lot additional down the street had it cooperated with Olson. Stephens stated it turned obvious to Olson that Moncur was “basically ignoring” a “gold mine that would assist lots of people.”

“Niels is the tenacious physician who’s simply making an attempt to do the science and construct a coalition of companions to get this factor accomplished,” Stephens stated. “I believe he’s the hero of this story.”

Google Turns to Congress

In 2021, the pathology middle chosen one of the prestigious medical establishments on the planet, Johns Hopkins — which plans to erect a constructing honoring Henrietta Lacks — to help it in scanning slides. It picked two small know-how corporations to begin constructing instruments to let pathologists search the archive.

Google needed to be chosen, and in a confidential proposal, it provided to assist the repository construct up its personal slide-scanning capabilities.

When Google was not chosen for the pilot undertaking, the corporate went above the JPC leaders’ heads. Google claimed in a letter to Pentagon leaders that the corporate had been unfairly excluded from “full and open competitors.” In that August 2021 letter, Google argued that the nation’s safety was at stake. It requested the DOD to “think about permitting Google Cloud” and different suppliers to compete to make sure the “nation’s means to compete with China in biotechnology.”

Time was of the essence, Google warned. “The bodily slides on the JPC are degrading quickly every day. … With out additional motion, the slides will proceed to degrade and a few might in the end be broken past restore.”

Google stepped up its advocacy marketing campaign. The corporate deployed a lobbying agency, the Roosevelt Group — which boasts of its means to “leverage” its connections to safe federal enterprise alternatives to its shoppers — to boost doubts in regards to the JPC’s pilot undertaking. Their efforts labored. In little-noticed language in a report written to accompany the 2023 Protection Authorization Act, the Home Armed Providers Committee expressed its concern in regards to the velocity of the scanning course of and the selection of know-how, which the committee claimed wouldn’t permit the “swift digitization of those deteriorating slides.”

The committee had its personal concepts of how the pathology middle’s work ought to be carried out, suggesting that the middle work in tandem with the DIU, utilizing an augmented actuality microscope whose software program was engineered by Google.

In a press release, the Roosevelt Group informed ProPublica it was “proud” of its work for Google. The agency stated it helped the corporate “educate skilled employees of the Home and Senate Armed Providers Committees over considerations in regards to the lack of an open procurement course of for digitization of slides.” The group chided DOD officers for being “unwilling to supply solutions to Congress across the lack of progress on the JPC digitization effort.”

The pathology middle employees was dismayed by the committee’s suggestions that it work with Olson’s group.

In a video convention assembly late final summer time with Armed Providers Committee employees, the leaders of the pathology middle tried to rebut the Home committee report. The JPC’s work was going as deliberate, they stated, noting that 1,000,000 slides had been scanned. And the pathology middle was collaborating with the Nationwide Institutes of Well being to develop AI instruments to assist predict prognoses for most cancers therapies.

The Home Armed Providers Committee ordered Pentagon leaders to “conduct a complete evaluation” on the digitization effort and to supply a briefing to the committee on its findings by April 1, 2023.

In a press release in response to ProPublica’s questions in regards to the invoice, Ladd, the Google spokesperson, acknowledged the corporate’s affect efforts on Capitol Hill. “We incessantly present data to congressional employees on problems with nationwide significance,” Ladd stated. The assertion confirmed that the corporate instructed “language be inserted” into the 2023 Protection Authorization Act calling for a “complete evaluation” of the digitization effort.

“Regardless of efforts from Google and plenty of on the Division of Protection, our work with JPC sadly by no means obtained off the bottom, and the bodily repository of pathology slides continues to deteriorate,” Ladd stated. “We stay optimistic that if the repository might be correctly digitized, it will save many American lives, together with these of our service members.”

On this final level, even Google’s critics are in accord. A correctly funded undertaking would price taxpayers a number of hundred million {dollars} — a minuscule portion of the $858 billion protection funds and a small worth if the lifesaving potential of the gathering is realized.

Final yr, as tensions grew with Google, the modernization crew on the repository launched a publicity marketing campaign to name consideration to the undertaking and the excessive moral stakes.

A complete panel dialogue was dedicated to the JPC effort on the 2021 South by Southwest convention. “This can be a as soon as in a lifetime alternative, and I need to be certain that we do it proper, we do it responsibly and we do it ethically,” stated Steven French, the DOD cloud computing engineer assigned to help the repository.

Then with out mentioning Google’s identify, he added a Shakespearean barb. “There’s loads of distributors, loads of corporations, loads of individuals,” French stated, “who’re greater than prepared to do that and extract a pound of flesh from us within the course of.”

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