Emerging from a White House meeting with top Silicon Valley executives, intended to soothe concerns over Internet spy programs, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg signaled Friday that he's still not mollified by President Barack Obama's proposed intelligence reforms.
"While the U.S. government has taken helpful steps to reform its surveillance practices, these are simply not enough," Facebook said in a statement after the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.
The hastily arranged meeting between Obama and tech leaders, including Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, came after several days of increasingly vocal complaints by executives who have previously had friendly ties with the president and his administration.
Zuckerberg personally phoned Obama last week to voice frustration over what he called "the damage the government is creating for all of our future," following a report that the National Security Agency had developed a method of installing spy software on individual computers by masquerading as a Facebook network server. Google CEO Larry Page also criticized the government's surveillance programs this week.
"It's tremendously disappointing that our government did this and didn't tell us," Page said at a technology and design conference on Wednesday, referring to leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that showed the NSA sought to weaken encryption standards and tapped into data transmissions between overseas computer centers run by Google and Yahoo, among other things.
Schmidt and other tech executives declined to speak after Friday's meeting. A White House spokesman characterized the session as "part of a continuing dialogue" in which the president reiterated his "commitment to taking steps that can give people greater confidence that their rights are being protected while preserving important tools that keep us safe."
Facebook, meanwhile, said in its statement that Zuckerberg is "grateful" for the president's "continued personal engagement on this issue." But it added: "People around the globe deserve to know that their information is secure and Facebook will keep urging the U.S. government to be more transparent about its practices and more protective of civil liberties."
Since his first campaign for the White House, Obama has cultivated a strong relationship with the tech industry, while receiving financial backing and advice from key leaders including Schmidt. But Silicon Valley executives have complained that the administration's support for NSA spying has weakened public trust in the Internet -- and, particularly, in Internet companies based in the United States.
Along with concerns about their customers' privacy, executives worry that consumers and business clients will shy away from using the services of Silicon Valley firms, for fear they'll be subject to government snooping. Analysts say U.S. companies could lose billions of dollars in business to foreign firms that promote their services by claiming to be less vulnerable to U.S. spying.
In addition to discussing the NSA on Friday, the White House reported that Obama also used the meeting to provide an update for tech leaders on his administration's review of privacy issues related to "big data," or the use of data-mining programs and other technology to analyze vast amounts of consumer information.
That issue could put tech companies on the defensive, since Facebook, Google and others analyze user data to deliver targeted advertising. White House adviser John Podesta, who's leading the review, attended Friday's meeting and is expected to report his findings publicly next month.
Also attending Friday were chief executives Reed Hastings of Netflix, Drew Houston of Dropbox, Aaron Levie of Box and Alexander Karp of Palantir. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer reportedly was invited but could not attend because of a scheduling conflict.
Hastings, Schmidt and Mayer attended a December White House meeting with tech leaders and Obama. The president subsequently announced some intelligence reforms in January, but they chiefly involve bulk collection of telephone records; he has resisted some proposals for stricter controls on Internet surveillance and efforts to undermine commercial software. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to issue further recommendations next week.
Houston and Levie are rising stars in the Internet industry, as founders of successful companies that provide Web-based data storage and other services. Karp is less well-known, but his company has thrived by providing sophisticated data analysis for commercial and government clients, including the NSA.
While the tech industry has expressed frustration since the first leaks by Snowden last summer, executives have increasingly chafed at recent disclosures.
Facebook security chief Joe Sullivan said Tuesday that his company's current safeguards would block the particular NSA scheme revealed last week. But another industry source said the notion that the government would co-opt a trusted Web service to distribute malicious software is galling to all Internet companies, which spend heavily to prevent such hacking.