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18 Jun 2018

Nitasha Tiku, Wired

Microsoft's ethical reckoning is here

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...critics noted a blog post from January in which Microsoft touted its work with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The post celebrated a government certification that allowed Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud-computing platform, to handle sensitive unclassified information for ICE... The post resurfaced amid outrage over ICE’s role in forcibly separating families soon after they arrive in the US, with some children detained in cages. Critics lambasted Microsoft on social media, asking the company to discontinue its work with ICE... Tech Workers Coalition, a labor group for tech industry employees, urged Microsoft employees to coordinate their opposition. “If you are a worker building these tools or others at Microsoft, decide now that you will not be complicit,” the group tweeted... Late Monday, Microsoft said it 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.” The company also decried policies that lead to separating families. “As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border,” the statement said. 

... The backlash against Microsoft underscores the shifting moral boundaries for tech companies, which have worked closely with defense and military since the advent of Silicon Valley... Most of the recent debate has been around uses of artificial intelligence to identify objects in video footage from drones, or to identify people through facial recognition.