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Groups urge IBM not to use AI to help Trump deport immigrants

Groups urge IBM not to use AI to help Trump deport immigrants
[Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images]

Back in July, representatives for IBM attended an informational session that discussed developing technology for vetting immigrants, hosted by immigration enforcement officials from the Trump administration, Reuters reports.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is reportedly looking into ways to use machine learning technology and social media monitoring to identify people for visa denial–and to select people for deportation from the United States. After IBM attended the informational meeting, rights groups are concerned that the company might be considering getting involved with the program.

While Reuters obtained an email from Christopher Padilla, IBM’s vice president of government affairs, saying that IBM “would not work on any project that runs counter to our company’s values, including our long-standing opposition to discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion,” he also noted that it was “premature to speculate” whether IBM would pursue this business.

To hopefully sway IBM from getting in bed with ICE, a coalition of rights groups, including 18 Million Rising and Center for Media Justice launched an online petition on Thursday urging IBM Corp to renounce the proposal entirely.

If you sign it, you won’t be alone. According to Reuters, over 50 civil society groups and 50 technical experts have already sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security decrying the vetting program as “tailor-made for discrimination” and pointing out that artificial intelligence would be “unable to provide the information ICE desired.”

Update: An IBM spokesperson provided the following statement: 

“IBM has a large federal contracting business, and routinely attends “industry day” listening sessions where government agencies brief multiple vendors on initiatives or projects they may be considering. These informational sessions are the very earliest stage of the federal procurement process and, in some cases, the concept being discussed does not mature into an actual bid opportunity. With no bid details yet released, it is premature to speculate whether IBM would even pursue an opportunity or concept.

“IBM would not work on any project that runs counter to our company’s values, including our long-standing opposition to discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.”

ML