In response to questions from BuzzFeed News, Microsoft spokesperson Frank X. Shaw clarified his company's position on the use of customer data. “We’ve been clear about our values. We oppose discrimination and we wouldn’t do any work to build a registry of Muslim Americans," said Shaw.
The company's statement comes a day after its CEO, Satya Nadella, attended a tech summit hosted by President-elect Donald Trump, and at a moment many when tech leaders are under increasing pressure — from both their own employees and the public — to explain how their companies would respond to government requests from the incoming administration, including being asked to build a Muslim registry.
Microsoft initially declined to comment on hypotheticals when BuzzFeed News asked earlier this week, pointing instead to a blog post by Microsoft's president and chief legal officer Brad Smith written the day after the presidential election. The company goes into more detail about its principles and policies related to law enforcement and national security requests in its digital trust report.
Facebook also initially would not comment on the record about a Muslim registry, but later told BuzzFeed News: "No one has asked us to build a Muslim registry, and of course we would not do so." This week employees from Microsoft, Facebook, and other tech companies signed a pledge not to help build a Muslim registry and to fight any illegal or unethical data practices.
During his campaign, Trump repeatedly stated that he wanted to build a database of Syrian refugees and made bigoted remarks about Muslims. When asked about a Muslim registry, Trump would not deny that he wanted one, but said his priority was the database of Syrian refugees.
Microsoft has sued the government four times recently to challenge requests for information and Microsoft's ability to be transparent about those requests. One lawsuit challenged a nondisclosure order attached to a national security letter. The case resulted in the government withdrawing the letter. In 2013, documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that Microsoft collaborated with US intelligence services to allow access to communication from users as part of a top secret program called PRISM.
Yesterday's meeting, which was organized by Trump's billionaire backer, venture capitalist Peter Thiel, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, covered jobs, technology's impact on the economy, and possibly repatriation of offshore cash.
Nitasha Tiku is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Nitasha Tiku at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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