• Omar Reyes

Why I'm running for US Congress

On April 10th, 2018, the US House of Representatives held a hearing with the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, on Facebook’s data protection and privacy practices. During this hearing, the woeful lack of understanding of how technology platforms such as Facebook operated was on full display. I watched the hearing, mouth agape, unable to fully process how our leaders could be so oblivious to how 21st century corporations functioned.

As a society, we have moved at light speed from one technology to the next. I remember feeling like there was something magical about copying a file without physically having to move media between computers, what we affectionately call 'sneaker-net'. I was fascinated with the ability to print a document wirelessly to the printer on the other side of the floor. These abilities have become mundane and taken for granted until they stop working.

Today, the network is everything. If the network goes down, it makes the news. Businesses cannot process payments, hospitals grind to a standstill, emergency services get hampered. Intellectually, we understood the importance of the network during the Arab Spring government protests in the early 2010’s. During this period of political unrest, dictators and authoritarian governments are quick to shut down the network and isolate their citizens. Without the network, our knowledge of what happened in these countries was severely limited. Recognizing the importance of the internet, the United Nations proclaimed access to the internet a human right in 2011. The internet has become the 21st century’s vessel for freedom of speech.

Domestically, our rights are threatened by law enforcement and corporations. The Department of Justice has made statements requesting back doors to encryption technologies that keep communications private and safe. Billionaires are funding research into neural implant technology, potentially creating a gateway into our personal thoughts. Companies are actively working to change the way currency is used and who controls its flow. Automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are on a path to take away 47% of the jobs held by humans today.

Cyber security is a national security issue. Our institutions are constantly under attack from domestic and foreign actors. In 2019 alone, over 140 local governments, police stations, and hospitals were held hostage by ransomware attacks. Here at home, municipalities like Margate and Coral Springs have had to discontinue online payments for services because their third-party payment systems were compromised. Florida ranks 3rd behind California and Texas in internet crime reports, with losses of over $150 million, the majority of which has affected our aging community. These problems will only get worse without proper attention by knowledgeable leaders.

On that fateful day, April 10th, 2018, I heard my country call for help. I started contemplating running

for office. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, the frequency illusion where something you've just noticed suddenly crops up constantly, kicked into full gear. I noticed dozens of articles with headlines like “Why engineers don’t run for Congress” and “We need more engineers for Congress”. I spoke with my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues about a potential congressional run and received their full support. As a network engineer, I may not be politically connected, but I know how to connect the world. With your support, we can bring America together into the 21st century.

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