US president Barack Obama met this week with some of the nation's top tech industry executives to discuss improving the National Health Care web site and other topics related to technology. But the execs only wanted to discuss one topic, and the message was clear: It's time to curb NSA surveillance.
"This was an opportunity for the president to hear from CEOs directly as we near completion of our review of signals intelligence programs, building on the feedback we've received from the private sector in recent weeks and months," a White House statement notes. "The president made clear his belief in an open, free, and innovative internet and listened to the group's concerns and recommendations, and made clear that we will consider their input as well as the input of other outside stakeholders as we finalize our review of signals intelligence programs."
Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith represented the software giant at the meeting, which was heavily tilted towards Silicon Valley companies, with Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, and several others also attending.
During the meeting, executives told President Obama that they were starting to see resistance to US-based technologies in overseas markets. Some tech companies, including AT&T, IBM, and Verizon, are facing shareholder revolts in the wake of revelations that they participated willingly with NSA spying initiatives.
Last week Microsoft joined with AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Yahoo! to call on the US and other governments to curb surveillance of cloud services, noting that it was eroding the public trust. Previous to that, Microsoft announced that it would heavily encrypt all cloud data in a bid to thwart such spying. Google and Yahoo! had previously announced similar measures.
The White House said that it would consider the views of the tech industry as it completed a review of the NSA surveillance programs.
Separately, a panel of outside advisers led by former national security official Richard Clarke this week advised president Obama to impose major restrictions and oversight on the NSA, an agency it says has trampled on personal privacy in this United States in the decade since 9/11.
"We have identified a series of reforms that are designed to safeguard the privacy and dignity of American citizens, and to promote public trust, while also allowing the intelligence community to do what must be done to respond to genuine threats," the advisers' report states. "Free nations must protect themselves, and nations that protect themselves must remain free."