Zuckerberg on the NSA: 'The Government Blew It'
Earlier this week, Mike Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch and a prolific moderator at this week's Disrupt conference in San Francisco, wrote on his blog that he planned to ask Disrupt's panelists--including Mark Zuckerberg--what they made of the recent NSA scandal.
"We are inundated with denials and narrowly tailored 'transparency reports,' but no company has stepped forward to tell us exactly what is really going on, and why the government seems so optimistic about being able to get user data from companies in real time or near real time, without any judicial oversight," Arrington wrote. "I'll ask the CEOs if they feel any responsibility to protect their users against clearly unconstitutional (and just plain icky) government data grabs. I’ll ask them what they are willing to do, if they do feel responsible, to protect those users."
On stage with Mark Zuckerberg, Arrington asked the Facebook CEO what role Facebook has had in the NSA's data-gathering efforts. Zuckerberg maintained that Facebook was not at fault in any NSA spying. Rather, the scandal emerged simply because the government mismanaged its communications with the public. He said:
Frankly I think the government blew it--communicating the balance of what they were going for here with this.
The morning after this started breaking, a bunch of people were asking [the government] what they thought. [The government basically said,] "Don’t worry, we’re not spying on any Americans." Wonderful, that’s really helpful for companies trying to work with people around the world. Thanks for going out there and being clear...
We’ve been pushing to get more transparency. I actually think we’ve made a big difference. The question we get [is] what volume of total requests [we have cooperated with]… We worked really hard with the government to release requests of 9,000 in the last half year... We wish the government would be more proactive about communicating.
In August, Facebook announced it was teaming up with Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo to sue the U.S. government in order to be able to release more information about its FISA requests. ("We aren’t psyched we had to sue," Zuckerberg says. "We just take this really seriously.")
Two weeks ago, The White House established a new panel composed of several prominent tech firms, meant to allay the industry's concerns.
According to Reuters, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, was "charged with recommending how to balance security and privacy concerns" and will be recommending actions in the next two months.
"We take our role really seriously," Zuckerberg said. "Our job is to protect everyone who uses Facebook. Our government’s job is to protect all of us and our freedoms and the economy and companies. I think they did a bad job balancing those things here."