Obama Meets with Zuckerberg, 'Internet CEOs' to Discuss Privacy Issues

Obama Meets with Zuckerberg, 'Internet CEOs' to Discuss Privacy Issues

On Friday, President Barack Obama and his top advisers met with top “Internet CEOs”–including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Netflix’s Reed Hastings, and Dropbox’s Drew Houston–to discuss privacy issues after Zuckerberg and other tech leaders blasted Obama’s NSA for allegedly infecting computers with malware to steal user data.

Obama reportedly updated the CEOs “on the comprehensive ‘big data’ review being led by John Podesta,” which the White House claims will impact “the relationship between government and citizens; and how the public and private sectors can spur innovation and maximize the opportunities and free flow of this information while minimizing the risks to privacy.”

Obama is soon expected to announce more reforms on the NSA spying programs, particularly regarding phone records, and the White House said he updated the CEOs on “implementing the principles and reforms he announced on January 17, including the new Presidential Directive he issued” to govern intelligence activities. Obama previously met with tech officials at the White House last December after Silicon Valley executives complaining that their international customers were afraid their personal information would be stolen if they use products like Facebook and Dropbox in light of the NSA spying scandals.

After recent revelations that the NSA may have infected computers with malware and “disguised itself as a Facebook server” to get access data from users, Zuckerberg called Obama to express his displeasure.

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

Though the meeting was about privacy issues, many who attended the meeting have also pushed Obama to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation so that their companies can secure more high-tech visas to import cheaper workers, even though more studies are indicating there is no empirical evidence to support the claims that America faces a shortage of high-tech workers. Zuckerberg has been lobbying Obama and Congress through his FWD.US group and teamed up with Hastings last year to hold a “Hackathon” with illegal immigrant “DREAMers” in Silicon Valley last year to help “DREAMers” develop apps that would help them push for amnesty legislation.

Executives who attended included:

  • Reed Hastings, Co-Founder & CEO, Netflix
  • Drew Houston, Founder & CEO, Dropbox
  • Dr. Alexander Karp, Founder & CEO, Palantir
  • Aaron Levie, Co-Founder & CEO, Box
  • Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO, Facebook

Administration officials who were present included:

  • Secretary of Commerce Pritzker
  • Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett
  • Counselor John Podesta
  • Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco
  • National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients
  • Deputy Director of the National Security Agency Rick Ledgett


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