Saturday, December 17, 2016

6.4 - Not Good News: Eight of nine tech companies refuse to pledge not to help with Muslim database

Not Good News: Eight of nine tech companies refuse to pledge not to help with Muslim database

That is a kind of Good News we can really use because it comes on the heels of some Not Good News.

In the wake of TheRump's election and his embrace of raging xenophobe Kris Kobach, with the resulting claims that TheRump was serious about the Great Wall of Orange on the Mexican border and about a registry for Muslim immigrants, the online magazine The Intercept contacted nine different American technology-related firms to ask if that company would, quoting the question, "if solicited by the Trump administration, sell any goods, services, information, or consulting of any kind to help facilitate the creation of a national Muslim registry, a project which has been floated tentatively by the president-elect’s transition team?"

After two weeks of calls and emails, six of the nine companies - Facebook, Google, Apple, IBM, SRA International, and CGI - wouldn't even provide an answer. Booz Allen Hamilton did answer - if you regard "declined to comment" an answer. Microsoft said the company would not discuss "hypotheticals" before offering the deeply disturbing observation that, quoting, "it will remain important for those in government and the tech sector to continue to work together to strike a balance that protects privacy and public safety in what remains a dangerous time." (Has it ever struck you that every time someone talks about a "balance" between privacy and security it always means we should have less privacy and more government surveillance?)

Of the nine, only one company gave a flat-out no: Twitter, which referred to a company policy statement saying, again quoting:
We prohibit developers ... from allowing law enforcement - or any other entity - to use Twitter data for surveillance purposes. Period.
This was apparently done in the wake of reports that police around the country were using people's social media feeds to track and surveil anti-TheRump activists at protests in the wake of the election.

Writing for the Intercept, reporter Sam Biddle notes in fairness that the lack of an answer from the other companies does not mean that they are tacitly endorsing TheRump's agenda in general or a Muslim registry in particular.

Even so, he wrote, it's hardly asking a lot of tech companies "to go on record as unwilling to help create a federal list of Muslims."

But apparently, for a lot of them, it is asking too much.

So good on Twitter, and that is good news - but the silence from the others except for a bit of creepy blather about "balance" definitely comes under the heading of Not Good News.

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