Big Data

100s of tech professionals take stand against Trump's Muslim database

A host of tech employees are publicly committing to never assist in building a database for tracking Muslims in the US, as proposed by Donald Trump.

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Image: iStockphoto/olya_steckel

Hundreds of employees from top tech firms have formally pledged to not assist in building a database to track US citizens "based on race, religion, or national origin." The pledge itself is hosted at neveragain.tech, and contains signatures from employees of IBM, Google, Slack, Microsoft, and more.

The open letter commitment is targeted at US President-elect Donald Trump who proposed a database system for tracking Muslims in the US while he was campaigning for president. The site commitment was also made live one day before Trump met with key tech leaders in New York.

"We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants, and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration's proposed data collection policies," the letter reads.

SEE: Employee political activity policy (Tech Pro Research)

According to the letter those who signed are all employees of tech firms based in the US. The employees and leaders represented in the signatures have jobs that "include managing or processing data about people," the letter said. As such, they have said they refuse to participate in events that they likened to the Holocaust, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and genocide.

"We refuse to build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs," the letter goes on. "We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable."

Additionally, the letter explains that the signees will advocate for more responsible data collection and use regarding ethnic or religious groups, and they would work to "scale back" existing datasets with that information. It also calls for default end-to-end encryption to be used when possible, and encourages whistleblowing and raising awareness for the way data is handled.

On a corporate level, so far only Twitter and Facebook have openly refused to participate in such a database or registry. Maybe not surprisingly, Twitter's Jack Dorsey didn't make the invite list for Trump's tech summit on Wednesday.

The bigger issue here is that tech professionals who are signing this letter aren't necessarily doing so with the support of their company. So, if Trump does proceed to begin implementing a Muslim database, and the company chosen to assist has employees who have signed this letter, there will be crucial conversations that will need to take place.

What would you do?

If you were a tech leader, and you saw your employee on this list, would you discuss it with them? Tell us in the comments.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. On Tuesday, an open letter launched pushing back against Donald Trump's plan for building a Muslim database, of which hundreds of tech professionals signed.
  2. The letter also calls for more stringent management of personal data, and end-to-end encryption as well.
  3. The letter itself could create tension in tech firms, if the employee's desires conflict with their employers.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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