Obama meets Internet bosses on surveillance (Update)

March 21, 2014
US President Barack Obama (4th L) and Vice President Joe Biden (3rd L) meet with executives from leading tech companies at the White House in Washington, December 17, 2013

US President Barack Obama met bosses from Facebook, Google and other Internet giants Friday to discuss plans to overhaul US spy agency surveillance practices which have infuriated the industry.

Obama sat down with company chiefs including Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who said last week he had called the president personally to express frustration with the vast online intelligence dragnets.

The president "reiterated his administration's commitment to taking steps that can give people greater confidence that their rights are being protected while preserving important tools that keep us safe," a White House statement said.

Officials said other Internet executives at the meeting included Reed Hastings of Netflix, Drew Houston of Dropbox, Alexander Karp of Palantir and Aaron Levie of Box.

None of the executives spoke to waiting reporters when they left the White House after about two hours inside.

The scope of the National Security Agency spying network, revealed in leaks to the media by fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, has sparked tensions between the administration and Silicon Valley.

Recent reports have spurred the concern, including allegations that the NSA imitated a Facebook server to inject malware into computers to expand its intelligence collection capacity.

The report by former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald said the NSA malware could collect data automatically from millions of computers worldwide.

Some Snowden documents suggest the NSA had access to servers of Facebook, Google and Yahoo.

The firms have strongly denied giving any access except under a legal requirement, and have said more transparency about the programs could reassure their customers.

Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post after speaking to Obama that he had expressed "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."

Obama introduced new guidelines for NSA programs in January but many of the proposed reforms are yet to be formulated by the agency itself and Congress.

Obama proposed ending the NSA's hoarding of bulk telephone metadata. Although he said the program must go on in some form, he was less specific about reforms on Internet surveillance.

The NSA and its supporters say the surveillance programs, which critics charge infringe civil liberties and the US constitution, are vital for tracing terror networks across the globe and thwarting attacks.

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not rated yet Mar 21, 2014
The surveillance on US citizens has not resulted in a single attack being thwarted. Turning the spy tools we developed to fight a war against a malicious enemy against private groups of citizens suspected of committing crimes is going to have extremely bad effects. These agencies are poorly controlled, secret, and violent. They must be stopped. They are a much bigger threat to freedom than the terrorism they are supposedly reducing (but aren't).
not rated yet Mar 21, 2014
Here's a better idea: improve the security-clearance system to prevent criminals like Snowden from accessing important intelligence programs then make sure you catch them before they have a chance to leak those secrets to, for example, the enemies of freedom: Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Hezbollah, Iran, Putin et al, the Chinese Communist leadership, etc.

This is a case of "what you don't know won't hurt you". The Senate oversight committee was put in place in the 70's to monitor the activities of America's spy agencies. It was aware of the NSA program and didn't find any abuses or cause for alarm. Was it necessary for everyone in the world to know that NSA could track cell phone call patterns of known terrorists and their (unknown) associates? Widespread knowledge diminishes its value. That's why it's called "spying". Every country engages in spying and for good reasons: it's better to know what your enemies are up to than to find out too late.
Lex Talonis
not rated yet Mar 21, 2014
Wow - a 24 palm circle jerk.

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