Microsoft’s Ethical Reckoning is Here

Published on: 19 Jun, 2018

Microsoft has become the latest company to pull into the tech industry’s ethical view over the use of its products by government agencies. Critics have stated in a blog post in January that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) publicized its work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This blog post commended a government certification that allowed Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform, to deal with sensitive and unclassified information for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Azure is Microsoft’s brand name for its clout-computing services that ranges from facial recognition to hosting a customer’s data. This post portrayed ways that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could use Azure Government, including allowing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees to use secret learning capabilities to speeding the development of facial recognition and identification.

Tom Keane, a general manager at Microsoft wrote: “The agency is currently implementing transformative technologies for homeland security and public safety, and we’re proud to support this work with our mission-critical cloud.” This post rose anger against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s responsibility in forcibly splitting families soon after they arrive to the U.S., having some kids held in cages. Critics attacked Microsoft on social media, demanding the company to stop its work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Niles Guo, a formal product manager at Microsoft, advised the company to fix this problem and improve. He states: “The projects we take on matters, they have real world implications. We can’t hide behind code without thinking about the ethical implications of our work.”  However, Microsoft claims it is “not working with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the 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.”

 This repercussion against Microsoft highlights the changing moral restrictions for tech companies that have worked closely with defense and military. Tech employers started to pay attention once engineers organized to voice their objections, starting with a pledge not to build a Muslim office soon after President Donald Trump’s election.


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William Kim



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