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Facebook CEO calls Obama to express ‘frustration’ over NSA surveillance

While Facebook is hardly a platform that one would associate with the concept of privacy, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has criticized the US government for their efforts in invading the privacy of online citizens.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zucker

Facebook is a social network. That being a given, one would expect that users would be keen on sharing all sorts of information about themselves. And this is evident, with the sheer number of selfies posted on Facebook (and its Instagram photo service), as well as other personal information posted on the site, like photos, addresses and contact details.

But there is another side to Facebook: it is supposedly a secure space where a user can share information and sentiment, but only within a set group. This hybrid concept of being private and public at the same time was earlier hinted at by Internet founding father Vint Cerf in an earlier opinion piece rethinking online privacy.

In a recent timeline post, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticized the US government for its involvement in eavesdropping activities that utilize online services as a means of obtaining information on both local and foreign persons-of-interest. Zuckerberg started by acclaiming how social networks like Facebook are a “shared space” that lets users connect, spread opportunity and learn. He argues that the company exerts quite a considerable effort in securing its system. However, US government efforts to break into systems and eavesdrop on targets can prove to be dangerous.

“The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat,” Zuckerberg said. “They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.”

Zuckerberg said he actually called President Obama about this concern. “I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.”

With the ubiquity of mobile devices, these are fast turning into eavesdropping devices, too, with government agents gaining access to mobile networks, mobile platforms and mobile apps, for instance, in attaining their goals. While developers have argued that they do not willingly cooperate with government agents in turning over data, government does have at its disposal quite a number of tools, which include search engines for metadata, backdoors in telco facilities and even spyware-ridden apps, among others.

One main point of frustration that Zuckerberg cites is that the company seems to be focusing its efforts in securing data against cybercrime instead of government agents. “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

This comes a few days after the NSA had been found to be impersonating Facebook servers in order to infect computers with malware that can be used for spying purposes. Zuckerberg does not cite any particular incident, however, although the CEO has made a call for “all of us” to “build the internet we want,” perhaps inviting other technology firms and users alike in aiding to the effort to improve user  privacy and increase government transparency.

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise applications and services. He is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team.

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