Microsoft employees call to end contract with ICE, and got this memo in response

Amid backlash, Microsoft’s CEO sent a memo to employees ensuring that their contract with ICE is in no way contributing to the White House’s border policies.


June 21, 2018

 

Amid backlash against the White House’s border control policy, BuzzFeed News reports that Microsoft deleted (then later reposted after questioning) part of a January 2018 blog post boasting that its cloud software assists US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) via deep learning AI and other services.

This prompted a letter endorsed by more than 100 Microsoft employees asking leadership to nix the nearly $20m contract with the agency, stating, “As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit.”

Enter the memo

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent a damage control memo assuring employees that “Microsoft is not working with the U.S. government on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border.” 

In the message, Nadella notably downplayed the services Microsoft provides ICE, listing support for banal functions like “legacy mail, calendar, messaging, and document management workloads,” with no mention of the “deep learning capabilities” their blog touted 6 months earlier. 

But, Nadella’s attempted olive branch isn’t likely to satisfy the protesting employees, who made it pretty clear in their letter that ANY involvement with ICE is too much.

This is a growing trend (in more ways than one)

As The Verge reports, Microsoft is far from the only big tech company working with ICE: Public records show 10s of millions of dollars in contracts with Dell, Motorola and HP, implementing hardware and other infrastructure for the agency.

At the same time, high-profile techies like Elon Musk, Tim Cook, and Mark Zuckerberg are sounding off against Trump’s border policy and putting an ethical stake in the ground.

Microsoft’s president has been equally vocal, saying the US “needs to get immigration right.” Which poses the question, will vocal executives put their actions where their pipes are? Or is it all just a PR play? 

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