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Microsoft CEO wades into ICE outcry: Cool it, we only do legacy mail

Ethics! Principles! But no talk of scrapping federal contract either

Updated Microsoft's continued efforts to distance itself from a clumsily worded blog post continued today with the publishing of an email from CEO Satya Nadella.

US govt photo of children detained

Microsoft shoves US govt IT contract where ICE throws kids: Out of sight in a chain-link cage


The email follows an open letter published in The New York Times and signed by over 100 Microsoft employees asking the company to stop working with the US Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agency, which has been criticised for separating children from their parents on the US/Mexico border.

In January, Microsoft published a blog post proudly boasting of the contracts it had signed with ICE among other federal agencies.

As furore over the immigration policy mounted, commentators argued that Microsoft was complicit in the actions of the US administration. In response, the software giant attempted to rewrite history before facing up to the fact that the internet never forgives and never forgets.

Following a blog post yesterday by Microsoft's president and boss of all things legal, Brad Smith, urging the US Congress to "enact constructive bipartisan immigration solutions as soon as possible", Nadella took to email in an attempt to douse the flames within Redmond's halls.

Nadella took a personal line, himself being a product of "an enlightened immigration policy". He went on to bluntly state that "this new policy implemented on the border is simply cruel and abusive" and was clear on what work Microsoft was doing with ICE:

Microsoft is not working with the US government on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border. Our current cloud engagement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is supporting legacy mail, calendar, messaging and document management workloads.

While not referencing the offending blog post nor directly addressing concerns raised by employees, Nadella trumpeted Microsoft's "ethics" and "principled" approach. There was also no mention of cancelling the $19.4m contract with ICE called for by the staffers because, hey, that's just legacy email and stuff, OK?


Having not seen the detail of the ICE contracts, The Register cannot comment on the legalities of cancellation. However, doing so would be certain to put Microsoft at a disadvantage when it comes to bidding for other, more lucrative government contracts in the future as it looks to challenge the dominance of AWS at a federal level.

Microsoft has some justification in feeling singled out for criticism. Late last year, Vigilant Solutions handed ICE the keys to its database of captured licence plates, which raised the eyebrows of civil liberties groups.

Other tech CEOs have ridden in over the last week to give the ICE policy a kicking, with the likes of Airbnb pulling no punches:

The handwringing continued with Apple's CEO Tim Cook describing the policy as "inhumane" and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling for the policy to be stopped "right now." Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted:

Readers can likely suggest a variety of ways that Jack and Mark could assist in dealing with the highly charged and often poisonous social media commentary on the topic of immigration. ®

Updated to add

President Trump today signed an executive order keeping more families together at the border following his administration's policy to separate immigrant kids from their parents. Youngsters already in ICE's caged pens will not be reunited with their guardians by this order.

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