Tech leaders urge Obama to move aggressively on surveillance reform

18 Dec 2013

US President Barack Obama talks with tech industry leaders at the White House in Washington, DC, yesterday

Tech leaders who met with US President Barack Obama have made it clear there is a need for sweeping surveillance reforms in the US, particularly National Security Agency (NSA) practices brought to light by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Following a two and a half-hour-long meeting with Obama and US Vice-President Joe Biden, they issued the following statement: “We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the president our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform.”

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and senior representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Netflix, all attended the high-level meeting.

The companies asked the Obama regime about what the NSA was doing overseas with their data.

Since the Snowden revelations, many of the companies have had to cope with both user and shareholder anger, in some cases expressed through lawsuits, at the levels of surveillance being committed by the NSA.

At a time when the tech economy is one of the few bright spots on the world economic landscape, the revelations have shaken the industry to the core and have also caused tension between the US and leaders in countries, particularly Europe, who have also been subjected to NSA surveillance.

The tech companies have asked the US government for a limit to the government’s authority to collect users’ information, more independent and public oversight of the intelligence agencies and transparency about government demands for information from tech firms.

With a recent court ruling describing the actions of the NSA as ‘Orwellian’ and with the heads of the NSA stepping down from their roles, it is clear for the legislators in Washington, DC, that change is inevitable.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years