Zuckerberg, Schmidt and other tech CEOs to raise NSA concerns with Obama – again

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Eric Schmidt and other top Silicon Valley executives are going back to the White House today to press their complaints about the government’s controversial Internet spying programs.

The meeting on Friday afternoon comes a week after Zuckerberg personally phoned President Obama – to express his frustration about “the damage the government is creating for all of our future” – following a news report that said the National Security Agency had developed a way of installing spy software on targeted computers by masquerading as a Facebook network server.

It’s not clear what will come out of the meeting, which was first reported Thursday by Politico.  This marks the second time in recent months that tech industry leaders have raised their concerns in a sit-down session with Obama. While the president clearly wants to keep the techies on friendly terms, he hasn’t really backed down from defending the NSA and arguing that it only does what’s necessary to protect the country.

Obama is considering some limited reforms, however, and it’s likely those will come up for discussion. Leading tech companies, meanwhile, are pressing ahead with their own efforts to guard against government surveillance.

Google, for example, said this week that “due to last summer’s revelations” – a clear reference to the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden – the company is now automatically encrypting all messages on its popular Gmail service as they pass between users and Google’s servers, AND as they move between Google’s data centers.

At least one company may be in a glass-houses situation, however. Microsoft, which has joined industry calls for reining back government snooping, found itself admitting this week that it had searched through the emails on a tech blogger’s Hotmail account in order to find an employee who leaked confidential product information.

Microsoft said the search was within its rights under Hotmail’s terms of service, while critics said the search seemed both hypocritical and potentially threatening to the ability of journalists to do their jobs. Microsoft appeared to acknowledge the critics by saying it will ask a retired judge to review the circumstances before it does something like that again.

(We can’t resist re-printing this photo by Gary Reyes/Mercury News of Zuckerberg and Obama during the President’s visit to Facebook’s offices in 2011.) 


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  • TCWriter

    Maybe Zuckerberg and Schmidt could ask themselves why the NSA is snooping around Facebook and Google for data?

    Because that’s where the data is. It’s hugely hypocritical for FB and Google to complain about government spying — they’re collecting data on each and every one of us with no real assurances about how it might be used in the future.

    The concept of them complaining about government intrusion reads like an article on the Onion.

  • Such Hypocrisy! “You’ve got to do a better job denying our involvement”, “Please tell your NSA lawyer not to tell the truth”. Just a few things overhead at this meeting. You think that they didn’t know this was going on? Yea Right. Of course they knew! The classified program named “PRISM” began in 2007 and has signed on Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. The recent NSA revelations have laid it all out: The NSA is watching us online. Its overreaching surveillance is creating a climate of fear, chills free speech, and violates our basic human rights — and it operates without any meaningful oversight.Americans Right to Privacy has solutions and I am anxious to share them with you. We offer secure, encrypted email, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which secures your computer’s internet connection, to guarantee that all of the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and secured from prying eyes.
    Switzerland, a country known for its strict data privacy laws, has no back door access to encryption for any government agency, not even Switzerland itself.

    Today, regaining your online Privacy means going Abroad