GitHub will renew a $200,000 contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) according to an email that was leaked to Fight for the Future (via The Verge). In the email, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman discussed the Trump administration’s policies and how he, GitHub, and Microsoft have issues with certain policies. He also adds, however, that GitHub wants “software developers around the world to have the freedom to operate with a level of privacy.” ICE’s policies towards migrant children and immigration are controversial and have been criticized by many, including several GitHub and Microsoft employees, including Friedman himself.
The contract for GitHub enterprise server was purchased in 2016 and was up for renewal according to the email.
In the email, Friedman goes into several details and factors that affect the decision for GitHub to renew the contract with ICE. Friedman points out that while ICE has many controversial policies, it also combats several serious issues, including human trafficking and terrorism,
ICE is a large government agency with more than 20,000 employees that is responsible for many things. While ICE does manage immigration law enforcement, including the policies that both GitHub and Microsoft are on record strongly opposing, they are also on the front lines of fighting human trafficking, child exploitation, terrorism and transnational crime, gang violence, money laundering, intellectual property theft, and cybercrime.
Friedman also states that a level of privacy is important for developers,
The use of our tools by software developers for their own private work is something different. We want software developers around the world to have the freedom to operate with a level of privacy. A world where developers in one country or every country are required to tell us what type of software they are creating would, in our view, undermine the fundamental rights of software developers.
Friedman compares the decision to Microsoft licensing Microsoft Word to people without demanding to know what people use Word to write.
Friedman states that the $200,000 contract is “not financially material.” He adds in the email that GitHub will donate $500,000 to “nonprofit organizations working to support immigrant communities targeted by the current administration.”
The GitHub CEO also invited recipients of the email to a Q&A that will be held tomorrow at 10 am Pacific time.