AnitaB.org, the tech organization behind the conference, said Palantir enables human rights abuses of asylum seekers. Palantir provides and maintains software used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to screen migrants and conduct raids; the firm renewed a US$50-million contract with the agency earlier in August. AnitaB’s move follows a petition calling for the drop by a group called NoTechForICE; it had 337 signatories at the time of publication. The petitioners continue to demand that AnitaB cuts partnerships with organizations that work with ICE, including Amazon and Microsoft. Palantir has not commented on the decision. (The Logic)
Talking point: The Grace Hopper Celebration is the world’s largest conference for women in computing: in 2018, it drew 20,000 attendees from 78 different countries; past speakers have included Anita Hill and Priscilla Chan, co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. It joins a growing chorus of groups calling on tech firms like Palantir to halt their work with ICE, including some Palantir employees. At least two employee letters have circulated within the company that criticize its business with the agency, but CEO Alex Karp continues to defend the contracts, citing his commitment to working with the U.S. government, whose immigration policy he has described as “fair but rigorous.” AnitaB has a history of cutting sponsors it deems out of line with its values. In 2017, it ended a partnership with Uber over the latter’s treatment of women employees. Following that— and mounting pressure from advocacy groups—Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned. Most of the Palantir criticism has been focused in the U.S., but the company is expanding significantly in Canada. In June, my colleague Murad reported that the firm had inked a million-dollar contract with the defence department. That was the first time the federal government had admitted working with the company. And, earlier in August, David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., announced he was leaving his diplomatic post to join Palantir.