SHAFAQNA – Many of President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises created fear in immigrant and Muslim communities. Today, Silicon Valley fights back; specifically Trump’s suggestion to register and create a database of all Muslims. A group of Silicon Valley technologists, engineers, designers, executives, et al., have co-signed an online pledge stating that they’ll refuse to participate in data collection that can be used to discriminate against Muslims in America.
“We refuse to build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs. We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable,” they explain in a statement on the website Neveragain.tech.
The online pledge has been signed by ninety+ people so far (the number is growing) including workers from Google, Indiegogo, Stripe, Yesware, Cornell, Giphy and Docker.
Their pledge draws parallels between Trump’s suggestions and former atrocities, including IBM’s involvement in the Holocaust and how deportations have led to mass deaths and hardship, from Japanese-American internments to Armenian genocide.
The timeliness of the online pledge is not coincidental; it’s appeared a day before Trump holds a summit with major tech companies in New York. The dignitaries expected to attend include Tim Cook, Elon Musk and Larry Page. By publishing this today, workers are sending a clear message — that they value personal freedom above their carers, and have stated they will resign from jobs that do not support their beliefs.
The pledge includes the following promises [abridged]:
- We refuse to participate in the creation of databases of identifying information for the United States government to target individuals based on race, religion, or national origin.
- We will advocate within our organizations to minimize the collection and retention of data that would facilitate ethnic or religious targeting and to scale back existing datasets with unnecessary racial, ethnic, and national origin data.
- If we discover misuse of data that we consider illegal or unethical in our organizations, we will work with our colleagues and leaders to correct it.
- If we cannot stop these practices, we will exercise our rights and responsibilities to speak out publicly and engage in responsible whistleblowing without endangering users.
- If we have the authority to do so, we will use all available legal defenses to stop these practices.
- If we do not have such authority, and our organizations force us to engage in such misuse, we will resign from our positions rather than comply.
- We will raise awareness and ask critical questions about the responsible and fair use of data and algorithms beyond our organization and our industry.
However, it’s easy to sign a pledge and more complicated to enact it, especially as data collection om diversity is prized in tech firms as a way to illustrate how they’re achieving gender and racial equality. For example, Facebook announces diversity updates every year — and no one wants that curtailed.
But balancing the collection of diversity numbers with the importance of personal privacy and data security will be the real challenge for tech companies — and the new administration — in the coming year.