Obama to meet with U.S. tech executives on privacy, surveillance

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO Fri Mar 21, 2014 3:48pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a screening of the film ''Cesar Chavez'' at the White House in Washington, March 19, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a screening of the film ''Cesar Chavez'' at the White House in Washington, March 19, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Executives of several large U.S. Internet companies, including Google Inc and Facebook Inc, were to meet with President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss changes to government surveillance programs.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama will meet with six tech executives to "continue his dialogue with them on the issues of privacy, technology and intelligence following his January 17 speech." The meeting is scheduled to start in the Oval Office at 4:05 p.m. EDT (2005 GMT).

Carney said Obama will speak with Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, the world's largest Internet search engine; Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook, the world's biggest social network; and Reed Hastings, chief executive officer of Netflix Inc, an online video streaming service.

Other attendees are Aaron Levie and Drew Houston, chief executive officers of two online storage and file-sharing companies Box and Dropbox; and Alex Karp, chief executive officer of Palantir Technologies, a data-mining company which is partly backed by the CIA and whose clients include the National Security Agency.

Obama in January outlined a series of limited reforms to NSA data gathering, banning eavesdropping on the leaders of friendly or allied nations and proposing some changes to how NSA treats Americans' phone data.

The White House did not elaborate further on the focus of the discussions. Experts, however, point out that the most sweeping program, collection of telephone "metadata," comes up for reauthorization next week, on March 28.

Obama has asked Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. intelligence community to report back to him before that deadline on how to preserve the necessary capabilities of the program, without the government holding the metadata.

'FRUSTRATION OVER THE DAMAGE'

An industry source said invitations to Friday's meeting with Obama were received on March 15, two days after Zuckerberg blasted U.S. electronic surveillance practices in a widely read public post on Facebook.

"I've called President Obama 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," Zuckerberg wrote.

Some of the largest U.S. technology companies, including Google, its rival Yahoo Inc, social networking site Twitter Inc and others, have been pushing for more transparency, oversight and restrictions to U.S. government's gathering of intelligence.

Facing criticism for their own collection practices involving users' data, the companies have also sought to clarify their relationships with U.S. law enforcement and spying agencies since June, when leaks to the news media by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began to show the extent of U.S. spying capabilities.

Media reports based on secret documents disclosed by Snowden have detailed how the U.S. government may have tapped into communications cables that link data centers owned by Google and Yahoo, and intercepted user data.

The NSA has pushed back against the media reports that rely on Snowden leaks, calling many of them inaccurate and generally the spying programs are critical to U.S. national security.

Snowden is wanted in the United States on espionage charges and is living in asylum in Russia.

Friday's meeting is not the first on the matter for Obama and the tech industry leaders. In December, a larger group of tech executives, including also Microsoft Corp, AT&T Inc and Apple Inc, urged the administration to rein in the government's electronic spying.

Executives from several other companies, including Yahoo and LinkedIn Corp, were said to be unable to attend Friday's meeting because of scheduling conflicts.

(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal and Jeff Mason; Editing by Ros Krasny, Stephen Powell and Mohammad Zargham)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (7)
sabrefencer wrote:
While Putinism moves…Obama still schmoozes, with anyone, that he doesn’t have to make any decisions with….all, of course, before the cameras..

Mar 21, 2014 1:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
usagadfly wrote:
It is already too late for American technology companies, or any technology company utilizing software or hardware of American origin. The bald fact is that the US Federal Government neither respects the privacy of its own citizens or the citizens of any other country, and that this is the policy of our one party State, run by the “Bipartisan Party”.

Exactly what do those people in Washington think makes someone an enemy of the American People?? They exclude themselves by definition? Some sort of group exemption from tyrannical practices? And none of them will ever be held accountable, however many felonies they commit. They make a sad joke of “justice”.

Mar 21, 2014 2:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SaveRMiddle wrote:
How much in taxpayer dollars will it take to keep these companies happy and quiet?

Mar 21, 2014 2:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.