IF YOU'VE BEEN to Cuba, Syria, Iran, North Korea of Crimea, you may want to check and see whether Slack still lets you do your job. The American firm has a new update to its popular corporate messaging software which seems to boot off anyone who has logged in from any nation currently enduring US sanctions.
The ban seems to be permanent and is impacting people who haven't been in the affected region for some time, suggesting that the company is retroactively visiting a list of logged-in IP addresses.
Anyone impacted will be greeted by the following message from Slack, without so much as a perfunctory GIF to soften the blow: "In order to comply with export control and economic sanction laws and regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Treasury, Slack prohibits unauthorised use of its products in certain sanctioned countries and regions including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and the Crimea region of Ukraine.
"We've identified your team/account as originating from one of these countries and are closing the account effective immediately."
The phrase "originating from" seems a bit misleading, as the majority of those complaining of a cut off have only been visiting the affected areas, and in some cases months or years before the eventual ban. As one user wrote on Hacker News "My wife's Slack account was closed yesterday. She created the account while travelling in Cuba (legally) years ago and hasn't been back to Cuba or any other sanctioned country since."
The ban seems to affect free and paid accounts alike, and the confusing phrasing led to some speculating that Slack was engaging in some ugly racial profiling:
Slack closed my account today!— Amir (@a_h_a) December 19, 2018
I'm a PhD student in Canada with no teammates from Iran!
Is Slack shutting down accounts of those ethnically associated with Iran?!
And what's their source of info on my ethnicity?#slack #UsSanctions pic.twitter.com/mY8Ltczq8v
Slack denies this, putting out a statement explaining that detection is based on IP addresses only. "Slack complies with the U.S. regulations related to embargoed countries and regions, as does every U.S.-based company. We updated our system for applying geolocation information, which relies on IP addresses, and that led to the deactivations for accounts tied to embargoed countries.
"We only utilise IP addresses to take these actions. We do not possess information about nationality or the ethnicity of our users. If users think we've made a mistake in blocking their access, please reach out to [email protected] and we'll review as soon as possible."
Just following the law is one thing. Not giving users advanced warning, and then belatedly banning accounts months and years later is most another. Bad form, Slack. µ
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