New documents revealed Wednesday the deep links between tech companies and law enforcement. Brands like Google and Amazon had signed several deals with the FBI and ICE. MSNBC writes that the nonprofit Tech Inquiry led research into these ties. Tech Inquiry is a “technology accountability nonprofit.” The study sheds light on tech’s relationship with the government. It also explains why it’s so hard to know more about their contracts.

For Market Access

Led by Jack Poulson, a former Google research scientist, Tech Inquiry dug into thousands of contracts between tech and the military. Tech Inquiry accuses Microsoft and IBM of suppressing human rights for market access. Microsoft and LinkedIn stifled dissent for more than ten years. Strongmen used IBM’s “safe city” products to create video surveillance networks. The company also defended working together with Nazi Germany.

Poulson had quit Google in 2018. He opposed the connection between tech companies and the US government. His work showed how these companies work with governments to hunt down dissenters and aid military activities. The two parties have signed more than 30 million contracts in the past five years. Of these contracts, the Department of Defense approved the most. Tech companies accounted for a fraction of them.

Other Government Deals

Relatedly, Gizmodo has reported on Google’s link with the Department of Defense. The company worked to start a drone program for the government, called Project Maven. Several Google employees resigned in protest. Still, the Pentagon showed interest in working with other companies on the project.

Amid calls to stop working with ICE, Jeff Bezos of Amazon said they had no plans of doing so. In 2018, Bezos also said he would continue working with the Defense Department. Amazon had worked on surveillance projects with the police. Their cloud service, Palantir, also “builds databases for ICE.”

Amazon employees protested these deals.

Microsoft had signed a $19.4 million contract with ICE to create software for tracking immigrants. Likewise, its employees called for the company to drop the deal. However, the company defended its work.

Doubt

Tech companies have stressed the ethical use of technology. But the secrecy of their government contracts spurs doubt. They have to share information with the public if they’re going to earn their trust. The new research could further dampen it.  

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