With the Trump administration looming a hazy, ominous shade of toxic creamsicle orange on the horizon, some in tech are lining up single file. Others won’t go so quietly, especially when it comes to the apparently hyperpartisan issue of facilitating genocide.
After The Intercept’s Sam Biddle asked tech companies if they would provide data for a hypothetical but not like that hypothetical Muslim registry, most companies projected the special sort of loud silence that only an unanswered PR inquiry generates. (Notably, Twitter said no.) Now, a handful of employees at major tech companies are signing onto a pledge launched by former Googler Ka-Ping Yee and Slack’s Leigh Honeywell.
Anyone who signs the neveragain.tech pledge commits to the following:
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.
– to scale back existing datasets with unnecessary racial, ethnic, and national origin data.
– to responsibly destroy high-risk datasets and backups.
– to implement security and privacy best practices, in particular, for end-to-end encryption to be the default wherever possible.
– to demand appropriate legal process should the government request that we turn over user data collected by our organization, even in small amounts.
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.
Beyond the names on the current list, we’re sure that many more tech workers are deeply opposed to some the more alarming machinations of the Trump administration than they’ll let on. Most are likely waiting for their top brass to take a company-wide stance, lest they be scolded or even fired for breaking rank.
Of course, Silicon Valley is a traditional bastion of Bay Area liberalism until those values become at odds with its bottom line. (Indeed, tech loves pretending that Peter Thiel is an abberation rather than a homegrown organic, grass-fed monster person!) We doubt that many of tech’s major data players will be willing to commit to some of the specifics here, like data destruction, end-to-end encryption and de-identifying future demographic data, but the pledge does apply more pressure for companies to come out with a statement on their own terms.
While this is all still hypothetical and preventative, the reality of a Muslim registry analogous to the Jewish registries that made the Holocaust so darkly efficient would not be difficult to procure. Between social networks and targeted advertising, tech companies command a nearly boundless well of personal demographic information on their users.
Even if users opt to not disclose their own race/religion/sexuality or other identifying details, search histories and social network data could piece the identity puzzle together easily, at scale. There’s no doubt that the information exists—and users are rightfully nervous about it—but what tech companies will do and say remains, unlike everything else, unknowable.
The names so far:
Akil Harris, First Look Media
Alex Baldwin, Poncho
Alex Cook, Software Engineer (Part-time Thought Leader)
Andreas Fuchs, Stripe
Andrew Bonventre, Google
Andrew Dunham, Stripe
Andrew Losowsky, The Coral Project
Annie Tuan, Mobile Software Engineer
Ben Wood, Autodesk
Benjamin Esham, Ellucian
Brian Geppert, metacode
Brian Jenkins, CTO, FoodCare
Brian Mastenbrook, AirStash
Brian T. Rice, Awake Networks
Dan Bornstein, Computer Programmer
Dan Kaminsky, Chief Scientist, White Ops
Dave Mayo, Software Developer, Harvard University
David Golightly, Software Developer, Substantial
David Hartunian, Position Development
David Reid, Engineer, Fig
Don Marti, Mozilla
Donald Ball, SparkFund
Drew Durbin, CEO, Wave
Daniel Espeset, Etsy
Ed Ropple, edboxes
Elsie Powell, 2U
Erik Ogan, Principal Engineer, Change.org
Erin Ptacek, Latacora
Ethan Schlenker, Twitter
Frederic Jacobs, Security Engineer
George Tankersley, Cloudflare
Heather Rivers, Director of Engineering, Mode Analytics
Ingrid Avendaño, Uber
Jeffrey Stanton, SparkFund
Jen-Mei Wu, Liberating Ourselves Locally
Jenny Tong, Pumping Station: One
Jeremy Rauch, Latacora
Jerry Vinokurov, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Jesse Adametz, Cloud Operations Engineer, Invoca
Joe Crawford, Web Developer
John Firebaugh, Mapbox
Jonathan Haddad, The Last Pickle
Joshua Wise, Imaging Architect, NVIDIA Corporation
Judy Tuan, Software Engineering Manager
Justin T. Conroy, Pumping Station: One
Ka-Ping Yee, Engineer, Wave
Kai Dalgleish, Mapbox
Karl Fogel, Partner, Open Tech Strategies LLC
Karl Schults, Engineer, Scribd
Karl Stolley, Associate Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology
Katerina Marchán, npm, Inc.
Keith McKnight, Software Engineer, Splash
Kelsey Gilmore-Innis, Callisto
Kent Quirk, Software Architect, The Achievement Network
Kevin Burke, consultant
Kevin Cantwell, Timehop
Kyle Drake, Neocities
Leigh Honeywell, Slack
Lennon Day-Reynolds, Stripe
Lincoln Quirk, Founder, Wave.com
Mano Marks, Docker
Marc Hedlund, Skyliner
Mark A. Matienzo, Stanford University Libraries
Marlena Compton, IBM
Martin Robinson, Igalia
Matthew Garrett, CoreOS
Matthew Lane, Rithm School
Michael Jeremiah Curry
Michael Wilber, Cornell Tech
Michael Nolan, Giphy
Mike Perry, Tor Project
Mikeal Rogers, Node.js Foundation
Mindy Preston, Docker
Molly de Blanc
Nate Parsons, Planet Labs, Inc.
Nathan Sorenson, SparkFund
Neil Kandalgaonkar, Sauce Labs
Nick Sullivan, Cloudflare
Nikko Patten-Weinstein, SparkFund
Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director, BetaNYC
Oliver Keyes, Senior Data Scientist
Peter Eckersley, Chief Computer Scientist, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Peter Reilly, Software Engineer
Philip James, Stripe
Philip Porada, Systems Administrator
Richard Esteban Martinez Hughes, MIT Class of 2008
Richo Healey, Stripe
Ryan Sablosky, Bard College
Sam Tobin-Hochstadt, Indiana University
Seth Price, RS & GS Engineer, Planet, Inc.
Shaun Carland, Software Engineer, Yesware
Sheila Miguez, Canonical
Siena Aguayo, Software Engineer, Indiegogo
Stefan Hayden, Shutterstock
Stephen Woods, Salesforce
Steven Johnson, Google
Stuart Geiger, UC-Berkeley Institute for Data Science
Ted Scharff, Planet Labs
Teresa Murphy, Marketing Associate, Indiegogo
Thomas H. Ptacek, Latacora
Tim Chevalier, Google
Timothy Kempf, Meadow
Valerie Aurora, Frame Shift Consulting
William Wnekowicz, Developer in Residence, KPCB
Yan Zhu, Security Engineer
Work at any of these tech companies and want to talk about it? Let us know: email@example.com
Featured Image: Stock4B/Getty Images