Zuckerberg: Trust in Facebook, Google 'went down' after NSA spying news

Communication and transparency are key to restoring user trust in Facebook and the government following a summer of revelations about government surveillance, the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday.

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Zuckerberg was critical of the U.S. government’s response to the National Security Agency surveillance revelations, which included saying that the surveillance programs only targeted non-U.S. persons.  “Gee thanks, we’re trying to provide an international service” at Facebook, Zuckerberg said at an event hosted by The Atlantic.

While general complaints about online privacy don’t “move the needle” with brand trust, the surveillance revelations did, Zuckerberg said. 

“The trust metrics for all [tech companies] went down when Prism came out,” he said, referring to a surveillance program targeting users of nine major Internet companies, including Google and Facebook.

“I don’t think the answer is no government requests for national security,” but users would feel better if they knew how many times the government asks Facebook for user data for national security purposes, Zuckerberg said. 

Facebook has sued the government for the ability to publish those numbers.

Facebook contests some government requests for user data, Zuckerberg said. “We look at every request individually, and we push back on ones that we think are overly broad or aren’t legal.”

Facebook’s commercial use of data also suffers from a communication problem, he said. “We do not give advertisers data when they’re advertising in our system,” he said of Facebook.

The company’s advertising system “tends to be pretty misunderstood” because it’s so complex, he said.

Zuckerberg also pressed his case for comprehensive immigration reform. 

High-skilled immigration reform and comprehensive immigration reform are the same issue, Zuckerberg said, but “people talk about high skilled and comprehensive immigration reform as if they’re different things.”

While tech companies would benefit from having more high-skilled, everyone should care about comprehensive immigration reform, he said.  “Eleven million people is a lot of people who are being treated unfairly now.”

Zuckerberg’s advocacy group, FWD.us, hopes to push immigration reform along by supporting its advocates.  

“We just want to be there to help support folks who are going to have to take challenging positions,” he said.

Zuckerberg commented on the “novel structure” of FWD.us, which received criticism earlier this year for its ad campaigns.   

“There’s been a lot to debug,” he said.

Because it supports issues that cross party lines, the group is actually three groups, Zuckerberg said: a “mother group” that does the policy work, a Republican arm and a Democrat arm.