Monday 22 December 2014

Zuckerberg calls Obama over NSA

Published 14/03/2014 | 01:17

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has hit out at the US government's surveillance programmes
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has hit out at the US government's surveillance programmes

Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg has called president Barack Obama to express his frustration over what he says is long-lasting damage caused by the US government's surveillance programmes.

Posting on his Facebook page, Mr Zuckerberg wrote that he is "confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behaviour of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we're protecting you against criminals, not our own government".

Though Mr Zuckerberg does not name the National Security Agency, the post came a day after news site Intercept reported that the National Security Agency has impersonated a Facebook server to infect surveillance targets' computers and get files from a hard drive. The report is based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The NSA called the report "inaccurate", adding in a statement: "NSA uses its technical capabilities only to support lawful and appropriate foreign intelligence operations, all of which must be carried out in strict accordance with its authorities."

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden confirmed that the president spoke with Mr Zuckerberg regarding "recent reports in the press about alleged activities by the US intelligence community".

Technology companies including Facebook, Google and Microsoft have been increasingly vocal about frustrations over the US government's spying programmes. Last month, top executives from the companies, along with others from Yahoo, Twitter, AOL and LinkedIn, called for changes that would include a government agreement not to collect bulk data from internet communications.

The ongoing strife over surveillance could threaten what has been a cordial relationship between Silicon Valley and the president. The region has voted overwhelmingly for Mr Obama in both of the past two presidential elections. Nearly 70% of Santa Clara County, which is home to Facebook, Google, Yahoo and a slew of other tech giants, sided with the president in the 2012 elections.

In his post, Mr Zuckerberg called on the government to be more transparent, but added that, unfortunately, "it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform".

In January, Mr Obama ordered a series of changes to mass surveillance programmes that included ending the government's control of phone data from hundreds of millions of Americans and ordered intelligence agencies to get a court's permission before accessing such records.

Tech companies took the president's speech as a step in the right direction, but said more is needed to protect people's privacy - along with the economic interests of US companies that generate most of their revenue overseas.

US internet companies are worried that people, especially those living overseas, will not trust them with personal information if they believe such data is being collected by the US government.

"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," Mr Zuckerberg wrote.

Press Association

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