What just happened? Microsoft boss Satya Nadella has responded to an open letter co-signed by more than 100 employees protesting the company’s work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The CEO has downplayed the Windows maker’s involvement with the agency, saying its contract only covers email, calendar, and messaging services, while stressing that it plays no part in separating children from their families.
First reported by the New York Times, workers wrote “we believe that Microsoft must take an ethical stand, and put children and families above profits,” in the open letter to Nadella, which called for the cancelation of the $19.4 million ICE contract.
In a January blog post, Microsoft said it worked with ICE to process data on edge devices, utilize deep learning capabilities, and help with facial recognition and identification tech. But both Nadella and vice president of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, Jason Zander, claim the contract doesn’t involve AI, Cognitive Services, or facial recognition.
“I want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with the U.S. government on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border. Our current cloud engagement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is supporting legacy mail, calendar, messaging and document management workloads,” wrote Nadella, in a LinkedIn post.
“Like many of you, I am appalled at the abhorrent policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the southern border of the U.S. As both a parent and an immigrant, this issue touches me personally,” he added. “This new policy implemented on the border is simply cruel and abusive, and we are standing for change.”
The CEO never explained why January’s post mentioned Microsoft facial recognition and deep learning services being used by ICE, and it appears that the contract isn’t going to be canceled.
Several top tech executives, including Tim Cook, Elon Musk, and Microsoft president Brad Smith have all condemned the immigration policy.