Perennial technology juggernaut Microsoft has been in the news a lot these days. In the startup scene, they made waves by purchasing vital hosting service of coders everywhere GitHub. And not too long ago at E3 Microsoft gave us hope for the future of the Xbox as a gaming platform, even if the ship has clearly already sailed on the Xbox One.
But there’s one piece of Microsoft news we’ve been sad to see not get a ton reporting, news that’s not quite new but disturbingly relevant again. In case you didn’t know, Microsoft is supporting ICE, and we’re begging them to stop.
By “Microsoft supports ICE” we’re not talking about the Microsoft Image Composite Editor. We’re talking about Immigration and Custom Enforcement, the government agency created just 15 years ago that’s currently being used as secret brutal anti-immigration police by Trump. The group that’s currently ripping little children away from their parents at the US-Mexico border and throwing them in cages. I’m sorry, “chain-link fences.”
Suffice it to say, we think it’s deeply disturbing that this is happening in America. We don’t think any modern company should feel comfortable working with a group that overseeing prisons for “””””illegal””””” kids, to think that’s something even remotely acceptable. So that’s why we were so dismayed when folks started resurfacing this January 2018 blog post detailing Microsoft’s collaboration with ICE, among other agencies, through its Azure Government program.
Microsoft has a history with working with the government. And it’s work with ICE sounds like typical IT support, using modern cloud services to make data secure but also efficient to parse. But there’s a big difference between streamlining government data that, say, helps federal employees get paid and streamlining government data being used to racistly target Latinx immigrants and literally pry their families apart.
This is especially disheartening given previous statements from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. During the height of Trump’s similarly abhorrent Muslim travel ban, Nadella strongly spoke out against it adding that he and many others who make America’s tech industry so vibrant are immigrants. Nadella also offered aid to Microsoft employees affected by Trump’s attacks on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA Dreamers. However, this criticism now feels hollow if the company is complicit in helping Trump carry out the actions being criticized.
After social media outcry, the Azure blog post was apparently scrubbed of ICE references before being changed back. So Microsoft has noticed. But noticing isn’t enough. We’re calling on Microsoft to cease all work with ICE until the cruel and needless family separation policy ends, or better yet when the entire unethical agency is abolished. And we’re hoping you all join us. Oh, and Amazon should also stop selling facial recognition tech to the cops. Come on!