Posted by Kristin McCarthy on December 14, 2016 in Blog

The Trump transition team held a much anticipated discussion on Wednesday with technology leaders regarding a litany of issues at the intersection of technology, national security, and the economy. Ahead of the meeting, 50 tech entrepreneurs signed an open letter stating their commitment to civil liberties and a "categorical refusal" to build tools that could threaten them. The letter is a not so subtle condemnation of some of Trump’s national security plans that were laid out on the campaign trail – including reinstating NSEERS or a so-called “Muslim registry.”

An important part of the letter not receiving enough attention of applause is the commitment by tech groups to partner with communities that have been hurt by the surge of technology in national security – communities like Arab Americans and American Muslims. Technological innovation is a critical and important component of the U.S. economy and national security. However, the rapid and oftentimes secretive use of technology to enhance surveillance powers regularly infringes on the civil rights and civil liberties of U.S. citizens. The letter by these tech groups plays an important role in elevating the concerns of Arab Americans and our allies in these critical discussions. You can read the letter here: https://medium.com/@dilawar/civil-liberties-are-essential-for-business-and-prosperity-172d0172ab2d#.s9qr51851

Access Now, one of the letter’s signatories, sent a separate letter to the technology groups who attended Trump’s roundtable discussion. Among many important concerns highlighted – including surveillance reform and government hacking – Access Now made an important point about the dangers of online Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts. The letter called on the meeting attendees to advocate for the protection of freedom of expression, privacy, and the right to association online. While groups like the Arab American Institute focus on challenging community engagement components of the current CVE framework, the advocacy and expertise of Access Now in pushing back on the online programs is critical to protecting the Arab American and American Muslim community from further harm by these programs.

 

[photo credit: Sean Spicer/Twitter]