Microsoft has always claimed to have remained committed to the cause of the displaced and the immigrants. However, the company has also confirmed that it would honor software sale contracts to the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE. A leaked email, which was later confirmed by Microsoft itself, clearly indicates the company is about to renew a $200,000 contract with ICE. The renewal appears rather controversial owing to the current U.S. Government’s increasingly stringent stand with respect to immigrants.
GitHub Enterprise Server Purchased In 2016 About To Be Renewed, Confirms Microsoft:
GitHub CEO Nat Friedman had confirmed in an email, which was subsequently leaked to tech activist organization Fight for the Future, that ICE will regain the license to use and operate a GitHub enterprise server. The agency had acquired the license back in the year 2016, and the purchase recently came up for renewal.
It is interesting to note that Friedman maintained that the company doesn’t have an agreement to provide professional services to ICE. Moreover, Microsoft-owned GitHub, “has no visibility into how this software is being used, other than presumably for software development and version control.” What this essentially means that Microsoft doesn’t appear to have any service contract, which would allow the company to offer its professional services within the confines of the ICE. Additionally, the nature of the license appears to be purely about supply. Simply put, the GitHub Enterprise Server license gives ICE the freedom to use the services and platforms as they want, without any specific conditions of use that Microsoft may impose as per its usage policy.
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) October 9, 2019
Offering software and tech-related services to the ICE have become a controversial and hotly debated topic primarily because of the ongoing enactment of policies by the agency against immigrants. Trump administration policies, like family separation and the Muslim travel ban, is commonly perceived as stronghanded and perhaps even atrocious.
Several professionals working in the tech industry have openly questioned how their work contributions will be used by the United States government to enforce increasingly stringent and iron-handed policies. In fact, Hundreds of GitHub coders have signed on to a petition calling on Microsoft to stop providing services to ICE or they will “take our projects elsewhere.” What this simply means is that software developers who regularly use GitHub to launch and host their software platforms and applications appear to be considering alternate services to GitHub. Incidentally, there are several popular and technologically capable alternatives to Microsoft GitHub, and it is only widespread popularity and adoption of the platform that makes it a priority.
Microsoft Makes A Distinction Between Services and Tools:
Friedman claimed the company makes a clear distinction between providing professional services and offering tools. However, offering services to ICE doesn’t come with a clearly defined set of rules. He mentioned that ICE is a “large agency” tasked with duties like fighting human trafficking, and added the members of the company leadership team “recognize it could be used in projects that support policies we both agree and disagree with.” Still, there are no clearly defined usage policies, and as such, Microsoft reportedly cannot know or dictate how ICE will use the tools Microsoft provides.
Github is renewing its ICE contract despite the company leadership’s *own position* against child separations at the border. it justifies this by basically saying “ICE does other things too”—but simultaneously admits it has no control over how the software is used 🙃 pic.twitter.com/hk1HpnBp4G
— 𝕁𝕒𝕟𝕦𝕤 ℝ𝕠𝕤𝕖 🥀 (@zenalbatross) October 9, 2019
As against the $200,000 ICE contract, Microsoft is lending a far bigger hand to immigrant communities affected by Trump administration policies., claimed Friedman. He claims the company has already pledged $500,000 to non-profit organizations that are fighting for the communities affected by the ICE policies.
It is interesting to note about Microsoft’s seemingly double-edged policies. Quite recently, several GitHub had started to block developers from countries that were facing US Trade Sanctions. The Microsoft-owned platform had begun sending out notifications that clearly mentioned the specific subscribers and users had highly restricted access to the platform.