Twitter was the first big tech company to say it would refuse to hand over data to help the United States government build a registry president-elect Donald Trump has described that would be used specifically to track Muslim-Americans, The Intercept reported two weeks ago.
As of Friday, companies including Facebook, Apple, Google, IBM, Uber and Microsoft have all chimed in to likewise refuse to hand over data to help build a database that would profile Muslim-Americans, according to reports from BuzzFeed.
Trump’s potential plan to create a registry of Muslim-Americans was a topic that surfaced repeatedly on the campaign trail. And, unlike many of Trump’s campaign promises, this one may actually be on the table. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a member of Trump’s transition team, said that after the election, Trump’s policy advisors began discussing a proposal to build the registry.
Oracle and Amazon, two companies that specialize in database services, haven’t clarified whether they will participate. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty offered her company’s services to the incoming administration a week after Trump won, in a letter congratulating him on the election results.
On Wednesday, executives from some of the most well-known technology companies in America met at Trump’s Manhattan skyscraper for a private meeting with the president-elect.
Oracle CEO Safra Catz joined Trump’s transition team this week, as did Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Trump has promised to be heavy on surveillance, which has long required the cooperation of technology companies that collect user data to provide services and sell ads. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google get so many requests for user data from the government and law enforcement that they voluntarily publish regular transparency reports to detail, in broad figures, how these requests are made and fulfilled.
On Tuesday, Google shared eight National Security Letters that reveal government demands for user data. Google wasn’t allowed to share, or even mention, that it receives such letters until earlier this year, when the company announced that a gag order on a letter it previously received had been lifted — gag orders otherwise keep National Security Letters classified interminably. Yahoo also published three National Security Letters in June.
Twitter, the one major tech company noticeably absent from Trump’s tech summit, has long had an anti-surveillance rule. Earlier this year, Twitter shut off access to at least two different companies that were providing surveillance services to U.S. law enforcement efforts.
Facebook clarified its stance on building a Muslim registry on Tuesday, the day before Trump’s executive tech summit, and two days before Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for U.S. public policy, was spotted heading to a meeting at Trump Tower, Gizmodo reported.
Before Trump’s tech meetup, engineers, executives and tech employees, many from major Silicon Valley firms, signed on to a letter pledging to refuse to build a database of people based on religious beliefs. More than 2,000 people have now signed the pledge.