The child migrant crisis currently underway at the U.S.-Mexico border is causing a firestorm of public outrage throughout the country, and Microsoft has now found itself in the middle. The cause? A January 2018 blog post in which Microsoft says it is "proud to support" the work of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is at the center of the controversy over separating migrant children from their parents, by providing Azure tech to the agency.
The January blog touted Azure Government's achievement of Authority to Operate (ATO) designations for two arms of the U.S. government: the Air Force and ICE. In reference to ICE, Microsoft stated in January:
Though the post came months ahead of the current controversy and is clearly unrelated, some Twitter users have called out Microsoft's support of ICE as offensive.
Microsoft @azure is "proud to support" the work of ICE. This quote is from a page that was created this year. To all the people lecturing me recently on having negative feelings about MS buying Github: y'all are ok with this? I'm not ok with this. pic.twitter.com/vm26BmWF81Microsoft @azure is "proud to support" the work of ICE. This quote is from a page that was created this year. To all the people lecturing me recently on having negative feelings about MS buying Github: y'all are ok with this? I'm not ok with this. pic.twitter.com/vm26BmWF81— taotetek (@taotetek) June 17, 2018June 17, 2018
When reached for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson stated:
That sentiment largely jells with a Father's Day LinkedIn post from Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith, in which he called attention to the issue. From that post:
Given its public stance, Microsoft clearly isn't supporting children being separated from their parents. Indeed, the company provides services like Azure and Windows to a number of commercial entities and governments around the world, including the U.S. federal government.
Still, the company's position on the border crisis stands in sharp contrast to its willingness to provide backend technical support for the digital services that ICE relies upon to pursue its mission. Given the complicated nature of the contracts and services involved, there's likely no easy answer here. But, with the passion of the current political climate, and the plight of families arriving at the border, Microsoft's support of ICE is likely to remain a thorny issue.
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