Mark Zuckerberg called up President Obama Thursday to vent his “frustrations” about the government surveillance programs. That call — and subsequent blog post — reveals how the Facebook founder feels pressure to distance himself and his network from the growing NSA surveillance controversies.
“To keep the internet strong, we need to keep it secure,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post on his Facebook page following his chat with Obama, assuring users that Facebook was working hard to protect their privacy: “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 also wrote that Washington was a “threat” to the Internet and that the U.S. government needs to put people’s and companies’ security first by being “transparent” about surveillance activities.
Zuckerberg’s comments came after The Intercept reported earlier this week, using documents from Edward Snowden, that the U.S. National Security Agency masqueraded as a Facebook server to infect suspects’ computers with malware and extract files.
Facebook was also implicated in Snowden’s leaks in 2013 along with other tech companies, such as Google and Yahoo, as part of the NSA’s PRISM data-collection program. Facebook joined in 2009. Most of these companies faced mounting pressure from angry shareholders after their relationship with the NSA came to light. That association has damaged tech companies’ image overall, and could cost them billions of dollars.
Tech companies have scrambled to do damage control as more leaks emerge. Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google fought for the right to disclose the extent to which they cooperate with intelligence agencies, and released more of this information in February.
Zuckerberg’s phone call to Obama is the latest in a string of attempts to repair Silicon Valley’s fractured image and reassure the public that they are champions of the open Internet. Google CEO Eric Schmidt called the NSA’s spy program “outrageous” in November, denying the company’s involvement. A few week’s later, top tech company executives — Facebook included — met with Obama to discuss how working with NSA hurts their reputations and goes against their views on government surveillance. Google linked up with the NSA’s PRISM program in 2008.
Ironically, Facebook has come under fire in the past for some of the same things its accusing the government for: violating users privacy and sacrificing security for its own data-mining purposes. Facebook’s users generally disapprove of not only the NSA’s actions, but Facebook’s intrusions on behalf of private companies, as well.