Zuckerberg to Meet With Obama Today on NSA Spying

Other “Internet CEOs” will also participate in the afternoon discussion at the White House.

National Journal
Dustin Volz
March 21, 2014, 5:40 a.m.

A week be­fore a key dead­line for re­form­ing cer­tain gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance prac­tices, Pres­id­ent Obama will again meet Fri­day af­ter­noon with some of the most power­ful faces of the tech world to re­sume talks on the gov­ern­ment’s con­tro­ver­sial spy­ing tac­tics.

Mark Zuck­er­berg of Face­book, Eric Schmidt of Google, Drew Hou­s­ton of Drop­box, Reed Hast­ings of Net­flix, Al­ex­an­der Karp of Pa­lantir and Aaron Levie of Box will at­tend the meet­ing, White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney said Fri­day dur­ing his af­ter­noon brief­ing.

Linked­In rep­res­ent­at­ives were also in­vited, but de­clined “due to schedul­ing con­flicts.” Ya­hoo is also un­able to at­tend.

An ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial would say only that the dis­cus­sion, sched­uled to be­gin just after 4 p.m., will be “on the is­sues of pri­vacy, tech­no­logy, and in­tel­li­gence.”

Zuck­er­berg strongly con­demned Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion for its secret spy­ing tac­tics in an open blog post last week, after re­ports cir­cu­lated that the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency had once used spoofs of the so­cial net­work to in­fect com­puters with mal­ware. The bil­lion­aire said he had called Obama to share his frus­tra­tion “over the dam­age the gov­ern­ment is cre­at­ing” with its sur­veil­lance pro­grams, adding,  “It seems like it will take a very long time for true full re­form.”

In re­sponse, the NSA denied ever de­ploy­ing a Face­book dop­pel­gang­er and said it lacked the tech­no­lo­gic­al cap­ab­il­it­ies to do so.

Today’s roundtable takes place just a week be­fore the March 28 dead­line Obama set for his ad­min­is­tra­tion to present him op­tions on how to pro­ceed with re­forms to the NSA’s col­lec­tion of tele­phone metadata, which he an­nounced in a ma­jor policy speech in Janu­ary. At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er said earli­er this week that the Justice De­part­ment would meet that dead­line.

Obama last met with some of Sil­ic­on Val­ley’s top ex­ec­ut­ives in Decem­ber to dis­cuss sim­il­ar is­sues re­gard­ing pri­vacy and gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance. The White House at­temp­ted to char­ac­ter­ize that sum­mit as an edu­ca­tion­al gath­er­ing con­vened to dis­cuss wide-ran­ging pri­or­it­ies, in­clud­ing the botched rol­lout of Health­Care.gov, but the tech rep­res­ent­at­ives in­sisted on keep­ing the con­ver­sa­tion fo­cused on NSA spy­ing.

Along with Google’s Schmidt, that meet­ing in­cluded Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and Marissa May­er, CEO of Ya­hoo, as well as seni­or rep­res­ent­at­ives from sev­er­al oth­er in­flu­en­tial firms.

Zuck­er­berg did not per­son­ally at­tend Decem­ber’s meet­ing.