Mark Zuckerberg Says He Called President Obama About NSA Surveillance, Doesn't "Like" It
Critics of the NSA now have Facebook's CEO in their ranks, after Mark Zuckerberg posted an open letter decrying the current state of mass surveillance. This isn't an entirely new tact for Zuckerberg, who's spoken out against such practices in other ways before — Facebook was one of the powerful tech companies that joined "The Day We Fight Back" campaign last month, which saw Zuckerberg team up with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Google CEO Larry Page. But Thursday's open letter is the most personal and direct statement by the social media kingpin, in which he describes calling President Obama to complain about the present state of affairs:
I've called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.
To Zuckerberg's mind, recent actions by the U.S. government, many of which were revealed explosively by NSA leaker Edward Snowden last year, are confusing and frustrating. He describes the work of Facebook's engineers, which he believes is "improving security" in order to protect users "against criminals, not our own government."
Whatever chuckles this may elicit, in light of Facebook's long, sketchy history regarding user privacy concerns, the gravity-laden tone of his letter, coming hot on the heels of Edward Snowden's ballyhooed talk at SXSW last week, does suggest that Zuckerberg has a handful of nobler priorities than just profit- and information-hoarding. This was also highlighted by recent news of Facebook's plan to acquire a company that produces near-orbit aerial drones, and use them to provide long-term Internet access to places in the developing world that sorely need it.
Zuckerberg concludes with a fairly customary call-to-action, entreating the public to unite in defense of a safe and secure Internet:
So it's up to us -- all of us -- to build the internet we want. Together, we can build a space that is greater and a more important part of the world than anything we have today, but is also safe and secure. I'm committed to seeing this happen, and you can count on Facebook to do our part.
Whether it's truly the case that Facebook, a multi-billion dollar social media monolith, can be counted on to build a space of safety and security online, is something of an open question. We'd certainly forgive anybody for being skeptical. But now he's shown both in word, challenging the status quo of the NSA's spying, and in deed — joining last month's massive online campaign against it — that a major effort is underway. Here's hoping he sticks to his principles, and that the NSA might have to adopt some new ones.