On Wednesday night Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called The White House and spoke out to President Obama directly, by expressing his frustration over the NSA, specifically their QUANTUM program and calling for change. Mark Zuckerberg is angry over reports that the National Security Agency has turned the internet to their own kind of weapon, able to hack into and control any computer they want, including personal computers. The new NSA program QUANTUM allows them to circumvent firewalls and implant infectious software into any computer which gives them the ability to not only take any information they want but also control the computer.
The Reform Government Surveillance coalition consists of large tech companies that have banded together and called for internet security reform, siting that the government has too much control and they are concerned it could lead to vulnerabilities that allow unwarranted spying. Facebook, along with Google, Yahoo, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, and Microsoft, make up the tech giants of the Reform Government Surveillance coalition. The group formed late last year and has been calling for reform and tighter security ever since Edward Snowden released documents that revealed what the NSA and other top government programs in the U.K. and Australia were doing.
After seeing no change and receiving little cooperation from the governments the Reform Government Surveillance coalition has only grown more frustrated. On Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg, went out on his own and called President Obama in hopes that he could make some headway into the matter by talking to him directly. Officials at the White House confirmed that the conversation did in fact take place, but did not divulge any of the details. President Obama has recently been working with the Department of Justice and meeting with intelligence agencies hoping to find a solution that will limit the amount of power the NSA has, especially with regards to phone data collections. Obama has also asked Congress to pass legislative reform on surveillance, but little has come of it.
In 2011 Facebook came under fire when it was revealed that users were not made aware of how much data Facebook was sharing with advertising companies and also making public. Facebook ended up settling with the Federal Trade Commision over the matter and has been more transparent with users about privacy and what types of data they give to advertisers ever since. The incident may make some feel that Mark Zuckerberg has no right to complain to the government about the same thing, who could argue that they’re doing this for safety reasons, not to make money. What the Reform Government Surveillance coalition gives is credibility, not only to the cause, but to Zuckerberg, who has repented for Facebook’s mistake and has not only the backing but the support from the other tech companies in the coalition. The main issue for group is creating transparency over the amount of data that’s given to the government through the Patriot Act and FISA, something they can’t control but feel the public should be made aware of.
After Mark Zuckerberg called President Obama it brought publicity to the matter and may bring out more supporters to the cause by way of support, but little has come from it so far. Tim Armstrong (CEO of AOL), Dick Costolo (CEO of Twitter) and Google Larry Page (CEO of Google), along with Mark Zuckerberg were the main contributors of the coalition in writing out specific objectives for what they are trying to achieve and they may have to do the same to really push the issue. The fight between the Reform Government surveillance coalition and the NSA is not new, but the sides have flipped (former NSA deputy director John C. Inglis took on the tech companies in the past over the amount of personal data they collect and give to advertisers) as the coalition is returning the favor and holding the NSA accountable for actions the tech companies have had to answer for in the past.
By Chris Dragicevich