A growing number of tech companies are pushing back against US Government use (or abuse) of their products.
Microsoft was one of the first headlining companies to recently voice concerns over its products being used to enable a practice that many people find inhumane. Numerous employees came together to sign an open letter to the executives, requesting that their hard work on Microsoft tools not be used to mistreat asylum seekers and their children. At the time, company executives were slow to take a stance.
Of course, those employees aren’t alone. Numerous companies have voiced–in one way or another, officially or otherwise–their discomfort with their products aiding and abetting what they see as human rights violations. Unfortunately, it’s one thing to send out a tweet about your supposed outrage, it’s something else entirely to be making millions of dollars off the government’s use of your product.
According to a report by Gizmodo that also cites investigations by The Verge and NBC, many companies have multi-million dollar contracts with ICE, some reaching $75 million. Names like Hewlett-Packard, Thomson Reuters, Palantir, Motorola, and others are profiting nicely from activities that some of their leadership (and workers) denounce, at least in social media soundbites.
So, who’s actually taking action?
Only Hewlett-Packard seemed to take an official stance, even if there was no talk of a refund. “As a company, we are opposed to any policy that separates children from their families and urge the administration to change its policy to keep families together,” a representative stated as told to NBC.
While Microsoft executives did speak out against the crisis of separating children from their parents at the border, there has been no word on how the company will go about revoking its contracts to use its software in border patrol agencies.
New reports have come out that Amazon employees are the latest tech workers to reject government abuse of their work. A very forceful letter to company founder Jeff Bezos from the employees closely mirrored the sentiments of top shareholders, voicing concerns that selling facial recognition software to the government would not sit well with consumers. The tool, ironically (or not) named AWS Rekognition-with-a-K, has already been deployed for picking criminals out of a crowd by law enforcement.
According to Metro, “The Amazon workers’ letter lists three demands: For Amazon to stop selling the technology to law enforcement, to stop providing technology to partners that enable ICE, and to practice stronger transparency.”