Microsoft has signaled its disproval at the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their families at the border.
“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,” said spokesperson in a blog post.
It went on to call for a continuation of the ‘noble tradition’ of keeping families together and called on the administration to pass legislation ensuring these rights.
On the surface, it’s a bold statement from Microsoft after years of opposing Trump’s policies. It previously criticized changes to transgender rights, as well as the deportation of DREAMers.
This time, though, the company’s outrage feels disingenuous. It holds a significant contract with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and made no mention of this fact initially.
Indeed, the Redmond giant has been providing the agency with its Azure Government cloud services for AI-powered facial recognition technology. After significant attention on social media, Microsoft updated its statement to include this tidbit:
“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.”
It’s not a statement that’s likely to sate its harshest critics. It denies its involvement in a very specific way, as well as using the wording ‘we are not aware’.
In reality, it’s possible Microsoft’s technologies had some impact, albeit indirectly. Its January blog post reads:
“This can help employees make more informed decisions faster, with Azure Government enabling them to process data on edge devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification.”
While Azure Government isn’t contributing directly to the separation of children, it appears to be powering facial recognition tech to aid in some scenarios. For a company so outspoken against Trump’s immigration policies, it seems to have aided it an awful lot.
You can read Microsoft’s full statement on its blog.