US tech employees vow to fight Trump on surveillance

Staff of Google and Twitter among signatories of letter pledging not to aid president-elect’s data collection plan.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks along side retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn during a campaign town hall meeting in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Trump has named Michael Flynn, a controversial ex-army general, as his national security adviser [Reuters]

More than 200 employees of technology companies including Alphabet Inc’s Google, Twitter Inc and Salesforce have pledged not to help US President-elect Donald Trump’s administration to build a data registry to track people based on their religion or assist in mass deportations.

Drawing comparisons to the Holocaust and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the employees signed an open letter at rebuking ideas floated by Trump during the campaign trail.

The protest, which began with about 60 signatures but had more than tripled within hours of publication, comes a day before several technology company executives are due to meet with the president-elect in New York.

“We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants, and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration’s proposed data collection policies,” reads the letter, signed by a mix of engineers, designers and business executives.

It continues: “We refuse to build a database of people based on their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable.”

READ MORE: Jewish activist vows solidarity with Muslims in the US

The letter vows not to participate in creating databases of identifying information for the US government on the basis of race, religion or national origin, to minimise the collection or retention of data that could facilitate such targeting and to oppose any misuse of data at their respective organisations considered illegal or unethical.

Trump clashed with Silicon Valley on several issues during the campaign, including immigration, government surveillance and encryption, and his victory last month alarmed many companies who feared he might follow through on his pledges.

Those concerns have not been assuaged in recent weeks, as Trump has said he intends to nominate individuals to senior posts in his administration who favour expanding surveillance programmes.

Alphabet chief executive Larry Page, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Oracle Corp CEO Safra Catz are among those expected to attend the summit with Trump’s transition team, according to two technology industry sources.

The Trump transition team did not respond to a request for comment regarding the open letter.

Source: News Agencies