Zuckerberg reveals phone call to Obama
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday revealed he has spoken over the phone with President Obama about government surveillance.
In a post Thursday on Facebook, the social media chief said he called the president “to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future.”
“Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform,” he wrote.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden confirmed Thursday that Obama spoke to Zuckerberg “about recent reports in the press about alleged activities by the U.S. intelligence community.”
Zuckerberg in the post said government spying has undermined the work his company has done to protect users, and warned the Obama administration’s activities are posing a “threat” to the Internet.
“When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government,” he wrote, adding that reports about spying at National Security Agency (NSA) and elsewhere have made him “confused and frustrated.”
“The US 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.”
The tech industry fears concerns about NSA surveillance will hurt their businesses by causing people to lose trust in their services.
This week, reports emerged that the NSA had posed as Facebook to infect computers with malware.
The NSA strongly denied that on Thursday.
“NSA does not use its technical capabilities to impersonate U.S. company websites,” the agency said in a statement. “Nor does NSA target any user of global Internet services without appropriate legal authority. Reports of indiscriminate computer exploitation operations are simply false.”
Obama has called for reforms to some of the intelligence community’s most contested practices, but privacy and civil rights advocates say those efforts aren’t enough.
Meanwhile, activists have been pushing the tech industry to do a better job encrypting communications to avoid spies’ prying eyes.
Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook has made an effort to encrypt communications, use protected networks and make “our services and the whole internet safer and more secure.”
When the government undermines that work, however, he wrote that it’s up to the developers and users of the Web “to build the Internet we want.”
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, in his first public appearance since leaking documents about the NSA last summer, called for Web developers this week to step up in the face of congressional inaction.
Tech experts, he said, are the ones who can “really fix things … even when Congress hasn’t yet gotten to the point of creating legislation for techno-rights.”
There are a number of bills in Congress to reform government snooping, including the USA Freedom Act, which has garnered more than 140 co-sponsors in the House, but those efforts have largely stalled.
Obama has pledged to unveil additional reforms to the NSA’s surveillance habits by March 28, when judicial authorization for the agency’s collection of phone records is set to expire.
— Justin Sink contributed.
This story was updated at 4:45 p.m.