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Cybersecurity & Standards, Free Expression, Government Surveillance, Open Internet, Privacy & Data

CDT Joins Letter Urging New Administration’s Agency Review Teams to Prioritize Civil Rights and Technology Equities

Dear agency review team leads:

As you begin the transition to a new administration, we the undersigned organizations urge you to prioritize civil rights and technology equities as you work to rebuild and revitalize agencies across the government, and ensure that everyone has a seat at the table when evaluating technology policy.

A variety of technology, civil rights, and human rights expertise is necessary to realizing the goals of government agencies and ensuring their work uplifts the American people. Transition teams should work to build structures and hire personnel to help bring this expertise to those agencies and to reflect the diversity of the American experience, including Black, Indigenous, Latinx and all communities of color, women, religious and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQIA community, people with disabilities, and others subject to historical and ongoing discrimination. In addition to expertise on the implications of emerging technologies, the administration will need expertise on the impacts of technologies on all kinds of communities, especially marginalized communities, and that requires lifting up underrepresented voices.

Therefore, we ask the following:

  • The incoming administration recruits a diverse range of voices and expertise on technology policy—at all levels, both in leadership roles and staff—including civil rights advocates, privacy advocates, consumer protection experts, academics, community leaders and organizers who can speak to on-the-ground impacts, representatives from socially responsible tech companies, and representatives from minority- and women-owned small businesses.
  • Agencies have dedicated technology and civil rights staff from day one working closely with primary decision-makers to evaluate equity impacts of new rules, agency actions, and the behavior of the industries those agencies regulate.

This country faces serious challenges in technology policy that affect nearly every agency’s jurisdiction. As many of our groups have previously stated, “There is an urgent need for new legal protections to ensure that technology is designed and used in ways that respect civil rights, preserve privacy, ensure transparency and hold both nation-states and companies accountable for harm.” Further, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing nearly every aspect of life online, agencies need a comprehensive understanding of technology and its implications.

With better understanding of civil rights and technology and a clear directive to address these issues, agencies can create a regulatory environment that encourages companies to design tools with equity impacts in mind; and where companies fail to do so, agencies can swiftly address these issues before they cause substantial harm. Without a diverse range of expertise focusing on tech policy, the new administration will not achieve the equitable outcomes it seeks, as technology will continue to cause disparate impacts and other harms.

Read the full letter + signatories here.