Facebook led the charge to the White House this week, as a myriad of Internet companies met with U.S. President Barack Obama to express their frustration over the lack of reform in the surveillance programmes of the National Security Agency, the promise of which they consider vital in assuring the privacy of their users.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in particular appeared to be gripped by angst over revelations, made by whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, that the Agency infected millions of computers worldwide with malware to enhance its surveillance.
After calling Mr. Obama personally to voice his displeasure with the latest round of NSA surveillance revelations the President acceded to holding a “huddle” with him and Google CEO Eric Schmidt on Friday.
Yet after their consultation Mr. Zuckerberg said, “While the U.S. government has taken helpful steps to reform its surveillance practices, these are simply not enough.”
He added that users of Facebook and other social media and email services “deserve to know that their information is secure and Facebook will keep urging the U.S. government to be more transparent about its practices and more protective of civil liberties.”
In a statement the White House, however, insisted that Mr. Obama was reiterating his administration’s commitment to take steps to give people “greater confidence that their rights are being protected while preserving important tools that keep us safe.”
The statement alluded to the principles and reforms that Mr. Obama announced on January 17, including the new Presidential Directive he issued to govern intelligence activities and said that he would ensure that not only security and counterterrorism requirements, but also “ trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of our companies,” would be considered in implementing these reforms.
It does not appear that the titans of Silicon Valley share this confidence, however. Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post, “The U.S. government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.”
He added, “Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.”
The meeting comes shortly ahead of a March 28 deadline by which time Mr. Obama is seeking recommendations to end the NSA’s collection of bulk telephone metadata. Tech companies were said to be “closely watching what Obama decides to do about the collection of bulk phone records, because the spying is done under a broad authority that could also include the interception of Internet data.”