Yahoo CEO: Tech sector needs transparency on surveillance

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer called on the Obama administration to allow for more transparency around the country’s surveillance activities.

Tech companies need to be able to regain the trust of their users — both in the United States and abroad — after last year’s revelations about government surveillance, which includes electronic communications as well as information about phone calls, Mayer said Wednesday, speaking on a panel of tech executives at the World Economic Forum.

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Yahoo is part of a tech industry coalition — which includes Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple — that has encouraged President Obama to take up a set of surveillance reforms, including increased transparency and international cooperation.

At Yahoo, “we believe that our users own the data” and should know what happens to that data, Mayer said Wednesday.

“Usually when you’re making a tradeoff with privacy, it’s very clear what’s being looked for and how the information is being used,” she said.

Mayer compared the controversial U.S. surveillance activities with instances where users knowingly sacrifice their privacy for security concerns, such as going through security at the airport.

“What’s murky about some of what’s happening today is people don’t necessarily know what information is being collected and how it’s being used,” she said. “And that’s the transparency we’re asking for.”