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

WASHINGTON, March 21 Fri Mar 21, 2014 1:19pm EDT

WASHINGTON, March 21 (Reuters) - Executives of several large U.S. Internet companies, including Google Inc and Facebook Inc, will meet with President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss changes to government surveillance programs.

The White House said Obama is meeting with tech leaders to "continue his dialogue with them on the issues of privacy, technology, and intelligence following his Jan. 17 speech."

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who has been critical of U.S. government surveillance practices, will attend the meeting, according to company sources. The White House has not released a full list of attendees of the meeting, which is scheduled to start in the Oval Office at 16:05 ET (20:05 GMT).

Twitter Inc representatives were not attending the meeting and LinkedIn Corp executives could not attend due to scheduling conflicts, according to the companies' spokespeople.

Politico, a Washington-focused news website, has reported that Yahoo Inc CEO Marissa Mayer also could not attend the meeting because of a scheduling conflict. Yahoo declined comment. An industry source said invitations to Friday's event were received on March 15.

Technology companies have been pushing for more transparency, oversight and restrictions to U.S. government's gathering of intelligence and have formed a coalition called Reform Government Surveillance. The coalition's representative could not be immediately reached.

In his January speech, Obama outlined a series of limited reforms to data gathering by the National Security Agency, the banning of U.S. eavesdropping on the leaders of allied countries and changes to how NSA treats telephone and digital data of U.S. citizens.

Last month, technology companies also reached an agreement with the Obama administration allowing them to give the public and their customers more detail about the court orders they receive related to government surveillance.

The changes come in the wake of leaks to the news media from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the secret U.S. spying programs.

Previous media reports based on secret documents leaked by Snowden have detailed how the U.S. government may have tapped into communications cables that link data centers owned by Google and Yahoo, intercepting user data without the companies' knowledge or cooperation.

Zuckerberg last week said he had telephoned Obama to express his displeasure with U.S. surveillance practices.

"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 on his personal Facebook page.

The NSA has pushed back against the media reports relying 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.

Obama and top aides privately met with a similar group of executives in December, and was urged to rein in the government's electronic spying. (Reporting by Alina Selyukh in Washington and Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco,; Editing by Ros Krasny and Stephen Powell)

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