Microsoft Employees Question C.E.O. Over Company’s Contract With ICE
Mr. Nadella was attending an annual gathering with interns at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., when the employees used the question-and-answer session to ask about the company’s government contracts, said the people, who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation. One employee presented Mr. Nadella with a USB stick that contained the petition, along with the signatures, including 500 from Microsoft employees, they said.
Workers at several Silicon Valley companies were up in arms over the issue, but Microsoft came under particular scrutiny from its employees because the company has a contract for processing data and artificial intelligence capabilities with ICE. The agency had been separating migrant parents and their children at the border with Mexico. Last month, Microsoft employees circulated a letter that called on their employer to cancel all contracts with ICE, among other measures.
In response, Microsoft said last month that to the best of its knowledge, its products and services were not being used by federal agencies to separate children from their families at the border. It added that it was “dismayed” by the Trump administration’s immigration policy and urged that it be changed.
The scrutiny comes as Microsoft has been positioning itself as a moral leader of the technology industry. Mr. Nadella and Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, have publicly said they wanted to protect user privacy and establish ethical guidelines for new technology like artificial intelligence.
The petition was started earlier this month by a coalition of nonprofit organizations calling for immigration reform. A group of Microsoft employees circulated the petition internally, collecting signatures. The group then decided to present Mr. Nadella with the petition and use the opportunity to raise their concerns directly with him, said employees involved in Thursday’s encounter. They said they chose that day to present the petition because it coincided with the deadline set by a federal court to reunite children and parents who had been divided under the former policy.
“Microsoft is complicit in profiting from a violent and murderous mass incarceration and deportation scheme,” said Scott Roberts, senior campaign director at Color of Change, a civil rights advocacy group which helped start the petition. “Microsoft must take action in the one way that will make an actual impact, canceling the contract.”