Microsoft employees came out in force last week after hearing of Microsoft’s involvement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The company allegedly aided facial recognition technology that’s been scrutinized after 2,300 children were removed from their parents.
On Wednesday, CEO Satya Nadella sent an email to employees addressing the issue and expressing his disgust with the Trump administration’s policies. However, his statement was seen as vague, and the company failed to pull out of its contract.
Now Amazon employees are taking a similar tact. A published letter to CEO Jeff Bezos criticizes the sale of AWS to analytics firm Palantir, which helps the ICE’s deportation programs. It also espouses the need for a stricter policy on who it provides such infrastructure to, questioning sales of facial recognition to law enforcement.
“We refuse to build the platform that powers ICE, and we refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights. As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used,” says the group.
“In the face of this immoral U.S. policy, and the U.S.’s increasingly inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants beyond this specific policy, we are deeply concerned that Amazon is implicated, providing infrastructure and services that enable ICE and DHS.”
A History of Co-operation
Last month, a petition from the ACLU has garnered 150,000 signatures against Amazon’s sales to law enforcement to the government. A further 70 organizations have sent a letter to the company asking it to desist, to no effect.
Amazon has previously defended its software with the philosophy that outlawing technology due to the misuse of a few would halt progress.
However, knowingly providing technology to an organization that has been criticized as inhumane raises different questions altogether. About whether companies will be transparent and open with the employees that create its software, or sell quietly to the highest bidder, no matter the consequences.
Trump has now signed an executive order to stop the forced separations, but questions about the role of tech giants remain. Employees and the public are asking for more transparency and accountability, and it’s not yet clear if they’ll get it.
You can read the full letter here.