Technology industry leaders on Tuesday said they pressed President Obama to “move aggressively” on reforming the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance programs during a meeting at the White House.
"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," said the tech companies in a statement.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with CEOs from some of Silicon Valley's top companies on Tuesday to discuss “a number of issues of shared importance to the federal government and the tech sector,” including the troubled healthcare.gov website and the NSA, according to the White House.
Among the 15 executives who met with the president were Apple CEO Tim Cook, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Netflix Co-founder and CEO Chad Dickerson, Yahoo’s President Marissa Mayer, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
“This was an opportunity for the President to hear from CEOs directly as we near completion of our review of signals intelligence programs, building on the feedback we’ve received from the private sector in recent weeks and months,” said the White House statement. “The President made clear his belief in an open, free, and innovative internet and listened to the group’s concerns and recommendations, and made clear that we will consider their input as well as the input of other outside stakeholders as we finalize our review of signals intelligence programs.”
Tech industry companies are pressuring the administration to enact greater oversight of NSA surveillance programs disclosed after leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of NSA monitoring of phone and internet traffic.
In an open letter earlier in December, leaders from AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants called for “the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information.”
The meeting comes as Obama is reviewing the recommendations from an outside task force which studied the NSA's practices. The White House has said Obama will study the report and announce any changes to the NSA in January.
Obama has generally defended the NSA’s practices, saying they were critical to thwarting terror threats and had saved American lives. But the president has also pledged to bring more transparency and increase oversight of the controversial programs.
The NSA programs though were hit with a massive legal setback on Monday after a federal judge ruled that the agency’s collection of phone metadata was unconstitutional. The court though held the ruling pending a likely appeal by the federal government.
Obama has also turned to the tech industry to help rescue the flawed healthcare.gov website, which was riddled with technical problems at its launch. After a “tech surge” the administration declared the website fixed and said most consumers could not register in the health law’s insurance exchanges without difficulty. Insurers though say there are unresolved back-end issues.
During the meeting Obama also announced that he was tapping Kurt DelBene, a former Microsoft executive, to succeed Jeff Zients as head of the healthcare.gov team.
“The President made clear his continued focus on improving the way we deliver technology to maximize innovation, efficiency and customer service, and encouraged the CEOs to continue to share their ideas on how to do so,” said the White House.
The tech companies' statement did not mention their discussions on the health care website.