Microsoft has come under a great degree of scrutiny in recent days regarding its work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which was first announced in January. While the contract was largely ignored initially, recent policy decisions by the Trump administration regarding immigration have fomented considerable discontent both within the company and without.
The Trump administration this week enacted a policy that would separate the children of illegal immigrants at the border from their families, generating much controversy. This, along with the purported living conditions of the children, have turned into a massive political debate within the U.S., and Microsoft seems to have been unwittingly caught in the crossfire.
Firstly, the company has faced severe backlash on social media from groups disagreeing with the policy. In response, the company has issued a statement suggesting it disagreed with the recent policy initiative by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, claiming,
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.
Without clarifying the exact details of the work Microsoft is doing for ICE, and what manner of computation the company's Azure cloud computing platform is providing for the government agency, Microsoft did clarify that it was not working "on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border", and that it was "not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose."
Microsoft certainly seems to have been caught off-guard with this development, as the company even temporarily pulled the section pertaining to ICE from its January blog post, before blaming the change on a mistake by an employee and reinstating it.
Tensions within the company have gone beyond just an uncoordinated response, however, as Gizmodo reports multiple employees within the company have also shown their vexation at the Microsoft's work with the embattled immigration agency.
Source: The Verge