Microsoft employees request the firm stop working with ICE

Microsoft’s employees have been displeased with the way the firm has handled reports of its technical support to the United States Gestapo, sorry Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

In response to news of the ICE new zero tolerance policy which mandated the separation of parents from their children (which has since been limited after a barrage of local and international condemnation), Microsoft’s Brad Smith released a memo noting the firm’s Azure work had nothing to do with this policy.

In response to questions we want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border, and contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose. As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border. Family unification has been a fundamental tenet of American policy and law since the end of World War II. As a company Microsoft has worked for over 20 years to combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents. We need to continue to build on this noble tradition rather than change course now. We urge the administration to change its policy and Congress to pass legislation ensuring children are no longer separated from their families.

The workers disagreed, requesting for a full renouncement of any contract work with ICE or clients which enable ICE.

In full, the letter says:

Dear Satya,
We believe that Microsoft must take an ethical stand, and put children and families above profits.
Therefore, we ask that Microsoft cancel its contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immediately, including contracts with clients who support ICE. We also call on Microsoft to draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Microsoft nor its contractors will work with clients who violate international human rights law.
We were dismayed to learn that Microsoft has a standing $19.4M contract with ICE. In a clear abdication of ethical responsibility, Microsoft went as far as boasting that its services “support the core [ICE] agency functions” and enable ICE agents to “process data on edge devices” and “utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification.” These are powerful capabilities, in the hands of an agency  that has shown repeated willingness to enact inhumane and cruel policies.
In response to questions, Brad Smith published a statement saying that Microsoft is “not aware of Azure products or services being used for the purpose of separating families.”
This does not go far enough. We are providing the technical undergirding in support of an agency that is actively enforcing this inhumane policy.
We request that Microsoft cancel its contracts with ICE, and with other clients who directly enable ICE. As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit. We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognize the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm.
Acknowledging this responsibility, we request that you:
1. Cancel the existing Azure Government contract with ICE immediately.
2. Draft, publicize, and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Microsoft nor its
contractors will work with clients who violate international human rights law.
3. Commit to transparency and review regarding contracts between Microsoft and government agencies, in the US and beyond.

Microsoft Workers.

Via NYTimes.

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