Tech giants claim they have no bias. They say that their employees run the gambit of the political spectrum and ideologies.
Yet, hundreds of Google employees are calling on the company’s leadership to pledge it will not work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
For a company with no bias or political leaning, Google, among others, is spending increased amounts of money on lobbying efforts, specifically targeting the Trump administration and its fight to secure our nation’s borders.
According to CNN Business, Google, Apple and Amazon have each lobbied for immigration issues, which include what the industry calls “high-skilled immigration.” The administration has ruffled feathers within the tech industry with “travel bans” and H-1B visa reform.
Google spent $45.96 million in lobbying since Trump took office. This is compared to only $32.46 million in the same time frame closing out Obama’s second term.
The group of employees, called Googlers for Human Rights, posted a public petition urging the company not to bid on a cloud computing contract for CBP.
Bids for the contract were due Aug. 1. It is not clear if Google expressed interest. The company did not return a request for comment.
At least 700 Google employees had signed the petition by Tuesday afternoon.
Citing a “system of abuse” and “malign neglect” by the agencies, the petition demands Google not provide any technical services to CBP, ICE or the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which provides services for refugees, until the agencies “stop engaging in human rights abuses.”
“In working with CBP, ICE, or ORR, Google would be trading its integrity for a bit of profit, and joining a shameful lineage,” the organizers wrote.
They cited federal actions that have separated migrant children from parents and set up detention centers with poor conditions. The fact that these policies predated the current administration and the current members of Democratic leadership have been the ones responsible for blocking funds needed to improve the conditions at detention centers is apparently lost on these employees.
Google workers are leading a growing trend in which some tech-company employees are taking public stances against their employers’ policies.
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This same group also protested a Pentagon contract last year over work that used artificial intelligence technology to analyze drone footage. The company did not renew the Pentagon contract after significant pushback.
The fact that Google has bowed to employee pressures has added to speculation and claims by conservative pundits, media and lawmakers that the company is building its products to be biased against conservatives.
Google has denied claims of political bias in its popular search service and other products.
Google is not alone in the tech world for employees who take a public stance regarding their companies doing business with ICE and CBP.
Tension between employees Whole Foods and its parent company Amazon continue to rise. A group of current and former Whole Foods employees called Whole Worker (which isn’t a union, because Amazon will not let employees unionize) put out a public statement against Amazon’s partnership with Palantir, a company that provides data to ICE:
“To show solidarity with our undocumented sisters, brothers, and siblings.”
According to an article posted by MSN, that lettertakes issue specifically with Amazon providing its web services technology to Palantir, which sells data to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the sale of Amazon’s own facial-recognition software, Rekognition, to law enforcement.
These services are often used to deport undocumented people and conduct raids like the one that occurredat a food processing plant in Mississippi this August.
Last year, an anonymous Amazon employee published an op-ed on Medium titled “I’m an Amazon Employee. My Company Shouldn’t Sell Facial Recognition Tech to Police.”
Additionally, tech workers from Salesforce and Microsoft have been putting pressure on their CEOs to cut ties and end contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, and other government agencies.
It isn’t every day that employees to tell their bosses to turn away revenue generating opportunities. But they claim that they have a growing concern that the cutting-edge technology they design, build and maintain will be used in immoral ways.
An NPR article stated that there has always been a level of idealism on the left coast. Todd Gitlin, a professor of sociology and communications at Columbia University, says “tech-utopianism” grew up out of the hippie movement in the 1960s and ’70s.
“There was this dreamy ideology … that when everybody had this stuff, they could use it for public good,” he says.
This can be seen in the mottos adopted by big tech companies. Google started with, “Don’t be evil,” but it is no longer part of the company’s code of conduct.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, addressing a company-wide event, said:
“We’ve fought together, whether it’s for LGBTQ equality across the country, that’s been so important for us, or fighting for women and gender equality and gender pay equity.”
Benioff even threatened tostop doing business in Georgiaif a bill permitting discrimination against the LGBTQ community became law.
Yet somehow, the industry wants to us to all believe that there is no bias. The people that work at Microsoft, Google, Amazon and their ilk would want us to also subscribe to the belief that they support law enforcement, when they clearly do not.
ICE and CBP are just doing their job and they do it very well considering the environment in which they do it.
Should employees be successful, and big tech stops selling their solution and platforms to the federal agencies, what does the future of law enforcement look like?