Bloomberg News

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Called Obama on NSA Frustration

March 14, 2014

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said, “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.” Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Facebook Inc. (FB:US) Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said he called U.S. President Barack Obama to express his frustration over the government’s spying.

“The U.S. government should be the champion for the Internet, not a threat,” he wrote in a post on his Facebook page yesterday. “They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.”

Zuckerberg’s comments follow reports that the National Security Agency has been disguising itself as Facebook to gain access to users’ computers for spying, according to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to the online news site The Intercept. It was the latest in a string of revelations about government surveillance that led Facebook, along with Google Inc., Apple Inc. and others, to call on the U.S. to disclose more about government requests for user data.

Related:

  • NSA Rejects Spying Claims and Calls for More Transparency
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  • Could Snowden End Up Breaking the World Wide Web?

“We encrypt communications, we use secure protocols for traffic, we encourage people to use multiple factors for authentication and we go out of our way to help fix issues we find in other people’s services,” Zuckerberg said. “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for Obama’s National Security Council, confirmed the conversation between Zuckerberg and the president. She declined to give any details.

NSA Statement

In a statement yesterday, the NSA said it is “inaccurate” to say it is impersonating Facebook or any other websites.

“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,” it said. “NSA does not use its technical capabilities to impersonate U.S. company websites. Nor does NSA target any user of global Internet services without appropriate legal authority. Reports of indiscriminate computer exploitation operations are simply false.”

Zuckerberg, the 21st-richest person in the world according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has been ramping up his involvement in political issues, from education in New Jersey to infrastructure development in Africa. He has donated to candidates in both the Democratic and Republican parties and started an advocacy group called Fwd.us to lobby for changes to U.S. immigration policy.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg met with Obama to push for surveillance limits in December, along with executives from other tech companies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Frier in San Francisco at sfrier1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at ptam13@bloomberg.net Jillian Ward


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