Microsoft says it’s ‘dismayed’ by child separations after criticism over ICE contractJune 19, 2018
After facing criticism for working with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Microsoft said in a statement today that the company was “dismayed” by the Trump administration’s policy of separating families, but it did not address its work with the agency directly.
Social media users recently turned up a January blog post, in which Microsoft discussed working with ICE on government cloud services. The company declined to answer questions on its exact relationship with the agency, but the blog post said working “with Azure Government enabl[ed] [ICE] to process data on edge devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification.”
The Trump administration’s policy of separating children from families crossing the border has turned to questions about how companies work with ICE. Microsoft’s blog post, which says it was “proud” of the work it was doing, triggered widespread condemnation today on social media. The ICE section of the blog post was even briefly removed, which a Microsoft spokesperson said was a “mistake” made by one employee. The information has since been restored.
In a later statement, Microsoft said it was “dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border,” and that it “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.” The company also asked the administration to change the separation policy and for Congress to pass legislation on the issue.
But the company did not initially address its work with ICE, a gap that will likely only raise more speculation. Later on in the day, Microsoft updated the statement to include a line attempting to clarify its work with the agency, writing, “In response to questions we want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or US 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 makes no further mention of ICE and whether its contract with the agency will remain active.
Microsoft’s full, revised statement is below:
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. 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. We need to continue to build on this noble tradition rather than change course now. We urge the administration to change its policy and Congress to pass legislation ensuring children are no longer separated from their families.
Update 6/18, 7:15PM ET: Added Microsoft’s revised statement regarding its contract with ICE.