Developer pulls critical code from tech company after ICE contract revealed

Developer pulls critical code from tech company after ICE contract revealed

Sick and tired of seeing families torn apart, one man decided to take a stand by pulling his code from a tech company working with ICE.

On Thursday, software engineer Seth Vargo pulled his open source “Chef Sugar” project from Github, as well as the Ruby package library, RubyGems. Vargo made the decision to pull the code, which had millions of downloads, after learning that Chef, a company that provides an “automation platform” for infrastructure management, had a software contract with ICE. 

“Chef was found to have entered into an agreement with US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), best known for their inhumane treatment, denial of basic human rights, and detaining children in cages,” said a statement from Vargo on the project’s Github page. “In response, I have removed my code from the Chef ecosystem. I have a moral and ethical obligation to prevent my source from being used for evil.”

It’s shocking to see complete silence from @chef on the recently uncovered contract with ICE. I was giving the benefit of the doubt on timing, but it’s been over 48h now with no communication from leadership.

— Seth Vargo (@sethvargo) September 18, 2019

Vargo, who previously worked at Chef, went into further detail about his decision in messages to Mashable. 

“Part of Chef’s distribution bundles other’s open source tools,” he said. “I’ve always been aware that some of my personal open source code was bundled in Chef’s distribution.”

“When I learned that said distribution was being sold to and used by ICE – the organization best known for tearing apart families and locking children in cages – I was having trouble sleeping,” he continued. “I reached out to Chef about their ICE partnership and no one responded after 72 hours. I had hoped to take a less disruptive route, but their silence was deafening. Thus I pulled my code.”

His action did indeed disrupt operations for Chef and its customers.

“Today has been a difficult day for the Chef community, our customers, and most importantly you, our employees,” wrote Chef CEO Barry Crist in a company email which was later posted on its blog. “Earlier today, a former Chef employee removed several Ruby Gems, impacting production systems for a number of our customers. Our entire team has worked to minimize customer downtime and will continue to do so until we restore services to 100% operation.”

Its not uncommon for companies to sometimes use open-source code written by third-party developers. The code is licensed to be used and distributed by any party, after all.  It was surprising to Vargo, however, that Chef depended so much on his code.

According to Vargo, Chef later restored an older copy of the code and removed him as the author. The company later restored his name to the code after public outcry.

In a response to a tweet referring to him as “the person who took Chef down,” Vargo clarified.

“I didn’t ‘take them down,'” he wrote. “Their dependencies on 3rd party code ‘took them down.'”

As for Chef’s contract with ICE, its CEO said the company is still going forward with the partnership.

“While I understand that many of you

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