By Adithi Iyer
On Wednesday, tech workers, Stanford students and residents of the larger Silicon Valley community organized at the Palantir Headquarters in Palo Alto to protest technology misuse and the formation of digital registries used to track immigrants.
In the midst of rain and wind, protestors of varying ethnic, socioeconomic and industry backgrounds carried signs with messages such as “People over profits” and “#dobetter” in reference to the event’s organizer, DoBetter Tech.
The protest comes in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration, following an election cycle criticized by some for its xenophobic rhetoric. Many of the protestors expressed concern that Palantir co-founder and Trump advisor Peter Thiel ’89 J.D. ’92 could aid the president-elect in tracking information and data on Muslim Americans.
In response, DoBetter Tech released an online petition encouraging community members to rally for concrete solutions and demanding transparency from Palantir. The petition has since amassed over 100 signatures from Stanford students, alumni and members of such tech industry giants as Oculus, Apple and Pixar.
The actions of organizations with ties to the Trump administration and the administration’s promise to limit immigration were hot-button protest issues at the demonstration.
Some attendees took to the loudspeaker took to the loudspeaker to raise concerns and rally the crowd. Mitch Stoltz, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), highlighted the importance of accountability among tech firms in his own speech.
“Don’t expect someone else to build in the ethics,” Stoltz said, “because if you don’t, nobody else will.”
DoBetter Tech, made up largely of tech workers and Stanford alumni, partnered with Stanford student groups to increase awareness of the event on campus.
According to Solveij Praxis ’17, the Stanford Student and Labor Alliance (SALA) participated in order to highlight the difficulty immigrants face in organizing for protests and demonstrations.
“These really are labor issues from our standpoint,” Praxis said. “When workers are living in fear of being fired because they’re undocumented, it’s much harder to organize to lift their wages and working conditions when working class people are living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to pay the rent. It’s very difficult to have the energy to organize.”
DoBetter Tech’s petition also highlighted AFI and FALCON, two government-affiliated intelligence systems which have had considerable roles in the tracking, data mining and compilation of data specific to immigrants.
“Some of these tools – on our website we’ve particularly called out AFI and FALCON – these two databases could be used to build something like a Muslim registry and could already be being used for workplace-raid-style mass-deportation,” said Jason Prado ’08, a member of the Tech Workers Coalition present at the event.
Protestors made a point of suggesting the importance of organization and demonstration now more than ever in the wake of Trump’s inauguration.
“We’re here to tell Palantir to look in the mirror and consider what their actions do, particularly to the most vulnerable members of society – people whom President Trump has actively called out as people he wants to target,” said tech worker Dana Sniezko. “I am standing here with my fellow tech workers and members of the Stanford community, the Palo Alto community and the San Francisco community, to say: Think about your actions.”