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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As tech companies expand their power and impact on society, even outfits whose work lies mostly behind the technical scenes are finding themselves in an unfamiliar spotlight.

Background: Microsoft's GitHub unit, a key asset for software developers but hardly a household name, was in the news for all manner of things — from protests over its work with U.S. immigration authorities, to new product releases, to an effort to ensure that humanity's greatest code achievements can outlast humanity.

Why it matters: A big part of GitHub's value to Microsoft is the fact that it is widely used by a broad range of developers. That's why Microsoft paid $7.5 billion for the company last year, and why GitHub is desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to steer clear of controversies.

History lesson: GitHub is a service that allows individuals and companies working on software projects to create repositories of their code. It's especially popular in the open source community and part of Microsoft's effort to stay central even to developers who aren't focused on Windows.

Driving the news:

  • Protesters showed up outside of the GitHub Universe conference in San Francisco on Wednesday to denounce the company for continuing its $200,000 contract with ICE. (This has been a major source of tension within and outside the company.) A number of speakers also dropped out.
  • A worker publicly resigned, citing the issues with ICE as just the latest area of concern. According to Vice, at least 5 employees have resigned over the issue.
  • Meanwhile, CEO Nat Friedman was on the cover off Bloomberg Businessweek discussing the company's move to store important computer code projects in the Arctic World Archive in Svalbard. That frigid stockroom now holds the entire code-bases of projects like Linux and Android so they can be rebooted post-apocalypse (if you can find the hardware).
  • Also: GitHub released a bunch of product news at GitHub Universe, including its first mobile apps for iOS and Android.

The big picture: With an increasingly activist tech workforce, it's not only the industry's giants that have to navigate political controversy and ethical dilemmas. Lots of companies, even those that aren't particularly consumer facing, are being called out by their workers to explain U.S. government and military work, ties to China and other issues.

Go deeper: GitHub and Microsoft employees protest renewed contract with ICE

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Jake Sullivan discussed Saudi-Israel normalization with MBS

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg and Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised normalization with Israel during his recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, three U.S. and Arab sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia would be the biggest regional player to sign onto the "Abraham Accords" peace agreement with Israel, and such a major breakthrough would likely convince other Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit.

Tech's leaky world

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tech companies are learning what everyone in Washington already knows: Leaks of confidential info are inevitable, and "plumbing" operations to close them rarely work.

Why it matters: Most tech firms talk up the power of transparency but prefer to keep details of their operations secret from competitors and the public. Researchers, regulators and the media are increasingly relying on information provided by dissident employees and whistleblowers to see inside companies' workings.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Harris wants more union membership in fed workforce

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a virtual town hall with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Oct. 14. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will today announce new guidelines to encourage federal workers to join unions, according to a White House official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration wants to bolster the collective bargaining power of workers across the country – and they are starting at home, with changes in the federal workforce.