Microsoft Says It Would Have Nothing to Do With a ‘Registry’ of Muslim Americans

(The Seattle Times/TNS) -

Microsoft says it would not assist government authorities in building software designed to discriminate against Muslims or any other group.

“We’ve been clear about our values,” the company said in a statement. “We oppose discrimination and we wouldn’t do any work to build a registry of Muslim Americans.”

The statement came in response to inquiries about a petition making the rounds in technology circles in which signatories pledge to not assist the U.S. government in any effort designed to target Muslims, immigrants, or other groups.

The open letter is a reference to President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign-season statement that he supported requiring Muslims in the U.S. sign on to a registry.

Over 1,300 people, including employees of Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google, have signed the pledge, which makes references to a history of genocides and mass deportations carried out, at times, with the aid of businesses.

The technology to build such a database already exists, in both basic off-the-shelf software and the demographic markers collected or inferred by companies such as Facebook and Google.

But questions surrounding discriminatory software have taken on symbolic importance as the technology industry, generally open to immigration and a believer in the inclusive public tone of much of corporate America, reacts to the election of a president-elect whose hardline stance on immigration and other policies have raised fears of discrimination.

Contacted by The Intercept, a digital news site, big technology companies this month were mostly silent on the creation of such a database. Twitter and Facebook have both said they would not participate.