Mark Zuckerberg Says Government Did “Bad Job” Balancing Privacy in NSA Surveillance, Yahoo! CEO Says Jail Time Threatened For Transparency

how it started this timeThe GuardianSome of the technology leaders attending the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco this week talked about the biggest non-tech tech news in the industry this year, public revelations about the NSA’s massive domestic data collection program. Tech companies, in fact, could lose up to $180 billion in overseas sales, according to analysts.

Yet as Facebook’s attempt to change its privacy policy to let it deploy users’ names and photos in advertisements show, in a big way data collection is the business of many tech companies. At the TechCrunch conference, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said the social media network company’s goal was “to understand everything in the world, semantically,” and to “help connect everyone” in the world. Americans may not be buying it; only 11 percent trust Facebook with their privacy, three times less than the IRS. No surprise the satirical Onion lampooned the company as a successful CIA project.  Asked about sharing data with the US government, ZDNet reports:

"I think it's my job and [Facebook's] job to protect everyone that uses Facebook. It's our government's job to protect all of us," Zuckerberg argued. "They did a bad job of balancing those things here. I think the government blew it."

Pointing towards the social network's first transparency report published recently, Zuckerberg defended that the company "worked really hard with the government behind-the-scenes to reveal the number of requests," admitting it wasn't everything Facebook wanted to declare in the end.

Marissa Mayer, CEO of the search company Yahoo, expressed more skepticism about US surveillance, pointing out being transparent about it would’ve led to jail time. Via The Guardian:

Mayer was asked why tech companies had not simply decided to tell the public more about what the US surveillance industry was up to. "Releasing classified information is treason and you are incarcerated," she said.

Mayer said she was "proud to be part of an organisation that from the beginning, in 2007, has been sceptical of – and has been scrutinizing – those requests [from the NSA]."

Yahoo has previously unsuccessfully sued the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court, which provides the legal framework for NSA surveillance. In 2007 it asked to be allowed to publish details of requests it receives from the spy agency. "When you lose and you don't comply, it's treason," said Mayer. "We think it make more sense to work within the system," she said.

Last week Yahoo and Microsoft said they were deeply concerned the NSA was trying to crack their encryption systems. Google, meanwhile, is fast tracking its work on encrypting its data streams, calling it an “arms race” with the intelligence community.

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  • SIV||

    " If this be treason, make the most of it.”

  • Invisible Finger||

    three times less than the IRS.

    I can't make mathematical sense of this. And it's not because of the IRS.

  • CE||

    I would respect these CEOs more if they would just post the metadata about the NSA's requests on their main websites. What's the government going to do, arrest the CEOs of Yahoo and Facebook and Google?

    If the NSA has nothing to hide, what do they have to fear about the metadata of their search requests being released? Our metadata isn't private, why is theirs?

    Of course, it's not me facing the treason charges, it would be them.

  • ||

    I would respect these CEOs more if

    ...they actually got themselves arrested. Look, if you really have some conviction here, then have some balls. You don't need Snowden size steel balls, especially when you're a CEO, to make a meaningful stand.

    And yes, I'm aware of the Nacchio story.

  • Overt||

    So you would respect these CEOs more if they would disregard court orders and opened themselves up for criminal prosecution?

    I suppose I would respect them more too, but I certainly don't expect that of them. The problem is the government, not the companies unwilling to go out of business for disobeying them.

  • SomeGuy||

    no offense but i find it preposterous for them to say they couldn't say anything because of threat of prison...seriously? Grow a damn pair and stand up! Or at least magically somehow have the information leak....you are a multi billionaire and a top manager of a large corporation and you lack any sense of cleverness? You can't think of anyway for your system to magically be breach or it gets stole. Some unknown disgruntled employee posted it but no one know who....fucking lies. They are just trying to save face and are full of shit.

  • CE||

    Is Yahoo really a "search company"? I think of them more as a web portal that used to have the best organized news and sports sections and email on the net, but now has TMZ-level stories listed in random order, intermixed with ads disguised as stories, with distracting backgrounds and email that crashes all the time.

  • Paul.||

    "We think it make more sense to work within the system," she said.

    You know who else decided to simply work within the system?

  • R C Dean||

    The fundamental error many people make about tech companies (Facebook, Google, and, yes, Apple and other device makers with "ecosystems") is that you aren't the customer, you are in fact the product being sold. You are data cattle, herded and harvested for your data, the sale or use of which is their real business model.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, I'm surprised more people don't realize that. Or how much trouble these companies have in monetizing that fact, which is why they keep finding new and improved ways of screwing consumers.

  • SomeGuy||

    Apple is more of a manufacture than a search/ad company. The other 2 are definitely ad/search companies. Apple makes most of its money from manufacturing

  • Pro Libertate||

    Missed Apple when I read that--agreed.

  • SomeGuy||

    but i do agree they will leverage that information as much as they can...who wouldn't if they could make money on it :/

  • Paul.||

    Apple makes most of its money from manufacturing

    Does it? Apple is a very service-oriented company. iTunes was a cash cow for Apple. Apple has a walled garden on its app store for a reason. They're pushing their services, apps which conflict with Apple's services get the boot.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    *Ding, ding, ding*

    Winna! We have a winna!

    Your prize? More scrutiny from the NSA! If you have nothing to hide....

  • Overt||

    As someone working at one of these companies, I can tell you that is not a ubiquitous sentiment at all. There are always people in these companies thinking exactly as you indicate- especially in the ad-sales and partner relationship teams. However, I know in my company the CEO has setup all sorts of checks on these people, including oversight teams who review every data sharing or advertisement initiative specifically because the guiding principal is "Please customers first, the ad revenue will come later".

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's a fine-edged sword they have to walk on, but the social media challenge of monetizing customers is a major one. But they can't go so far as to alienate consumers, who aren't using the sites for that reason.

  • Yar||

    You know you've crossed a line when Mark Zuckerberg is criticizing your attitude towards privacy.

  • Anomalous||

    Marissa Mayer is obviously ignorant of the definition of treason.

  • Overt||

    Given how the government has been targeting reporters who publish leaks and the leakers themselves, I don't think it is outside the realm of possibility that a CEO releasing this information against court orders would find herself fighting many trumped up charges- treason (or aiding the enemy, or something similar) among them.

  • Yar||

    I know. It's really more like light treason. At best.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Just because it wouldn't legally be "Treason" doesn't mean that she wouldn't be facing treason-level government fury if she leaked.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Yeah, no way it fits the constitutional definition.

    Of course, the blunder of the Founders was not to forbid Congress from just passing laws against treason by another name (espionage, trading with the enemy, material assistance to terrorists, etc).

  • ||

    Mayer said she was "proud to be part of an organisation that from the beginning, in 2007, has been sceptical of – and has been scrutinizing – those requests [from the NSA]."

    When is her organization going to start scrutinizing requests from the USCIS?

    Perhaps she could post something on Yahoo's website saying how many I-9's they had to fill out, demonstrating excessive government intrusion into her company's and her prospective employees' private hiring decisions. Or she could name the people Yahoo is not allowed to employ because they exceed the annual quota of people like them. Or she could enumerate the contributions of employees who had to be let go because their visas couldn't be converted to permanent residency.

    Is that treason too?

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