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Tech Leaders Push Back Against Obama's Efforts To Divert Discussion From NSA 312

Posted by Soulskill
from the stay-on-target dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Guardian reports that while President Obama tried to portray a meeting with tech leaders as a wide-ranging discussion of broader priorities including ways of improving the functionality of the troubled health insurance website Healthcare.gov, senior executives from Apple, Yahoo, Google, Comcast, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Netflix said they were determined to keep the discussion focused on the NSA. 'We are there to talk about the NSA,' said one executive who was briefed on the company's agenda before the event. After meeting Obama and vice president Joe Biden for two-and-a-half hours, the companies issued a one-line 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.' Many of the senior tech leaders had already made public their demand for sweeping surveillance reforms in an open letter that specifically called for a ban on the kind of bulk data collection that a federal judge ruled on Monday was probably unlawful. Obama seemed sympathetic to the idea of allowing more disclosure of government surveillance requests by technology companies, according to a tech industry official who was briefed on the meeting. Marissa Mayer brought up concerns about the potentially negative impact that could be caused if countries, such as Brazil, move forward with legislation that would require service providers to ensure that data belonging to a citizen of a certain country remain in the country it originates, the official said. That would require technology companies to build data centers in each country — a costly problem for American Internet companies. The decision by the tech giants to press their case in such a public and unified way poses a problem for the White House. The industry is an increasingly influential voice in Washington, a vital part of the US economy and many of its most successful leaders are prominent Democratic political donors."
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Tech Leaders Push Back Against Obama's Efforts To Divert Discussion From NSA

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  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:08PM (#45721359) Journal

    Obama forgot who his bosses are.

    Obama thought he has become the KING of the Americans.

    Obama is but one of the civil servants whose salaries are being paid by the American taxpayers.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:26PM (#45721551)

      Obama forgot who his bosses are.

      And the Corporations represented here reminded him.

      • by Spy Handler (822350) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:35PM (#45721605) Homepage Journal

        Not like those corporation give a rat's ass about the constitution or citizen liberties. They're only there because, like Marissa said, all those foreign countries getting suspicious of NSA might require them (the corporations) to build datacenter in every country they operate, and that's gonna be very costly to them.

        • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:03PM (#45721841)

          Not like those corporation give a rat's ass about the constitution or citizen liberties.

          Hell, their "stalker economy" business model is partially responsible for enabling the NSA. [washingtonpost.com] We can expect them to do everything they can to minimize their exposure on this problem, even if it makes things worse for us regular citizens. It is just serendipity that our interests and their interests are kind of sort of aligned for the moment like they were aligned on SOPA but you don't hear a peep from them about the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) treaty negotiations.

        • by Bartles (1198017)
          No, they're there because most of them are heavily regulated by the FCC and other various acronymical government departments. Most of them personally gave money to re-elect the President. Of course they are going to do whatever they can to help the NSA.
    • by Luckyo (1726890)

      The reason this is happening is because he knows very well who his bosses are.

      It's just that ignorant people think they know better and like to quote various papers. They are wrong, as papers don't decide who rules. Power does. And power is firmly in the hands of those that Obama and his likes serves.

      So he'll rule just fine, people will feel they have been wronged, and do nothing about it. Because those in power will tell them through the mass media that life is unfair, that this is normal, and that they sh

    • by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:53PM (#45721757)

      Obama forgot who his bosses are.

      Obama thought he has become the KING of the Americans.

      Obama is but one of the civil servants whose salaries are being paid by the American taxpayers.

      Although I am no great fan of President Obama, generally, and wish it was someone else, you nonetheless have that quite wrong. He isn't a "civil servant." Civil servants are hired help of the Executive branch of government.

      President Obama is the President of the United States of America, leader of the country, a position long known as leader of the Free World, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, the man empowered to authorize the launch of nuclear weapons, the head of the executive branch of the United States, the man who appoints the heads of the executive departments with the advice and consent of the Senate, the man who appoints Ambassadors, and the highest elected official in the country - one of only two national offices. His signature or acquiescence is generally required for bills passed by Congress to become law, otherwise he can block them unless the Congress musters 2/3 majority vote to override him, which rarely happens.

      He isn't king, but as President he wields the highest authority of the executive branch. When backed by Congress he has enormous power.

      You aren't his boss, he isn't a shoeshine boy that you can bark at. If you voted, you helped elect him, but that is past now. He has the office, and there is no recall. He can only be removed before his term expires for high crimes and misdemeanors as charged in the House and tried in the Senate. Although the Constitution and the courts are a key check on his power, the Congress is key. So far the country seems content on maintaining a Democratic Senate, which ensures he will have plenty of leverage to enact the unwise policies of his party.

      It would be great if you started getting this sort of stuff right, you sound like you are howling at the moon.

      • by chill (34294) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:02PM (#45721827) Journal

        ...you sound like you are howling at the moon.

        This is the Internet. That is what they do here.

        That being said, your civics lesson left out the large role lobbying and campaign contributions play in the decisions and actions of both Congress and the Executive. While the President can safely ignore the ranting of Internet dogs, he and the other players can't just blow off the leaders of some of the largest, most profitable corporations in the world. Mr. Obama may not be seeking re-election, but anyone looking for $$ from that crowd would do well to notice that they don't give a damn about the ACA and are up in arms about the NSA.

      • by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:16PM (#45722221) Journal

        leader of the country,

        Nope. Leader of one of three co-equal branches of the federal government. He's not my boss, and he's not yours, either.

        -jcr

      • As President he deserves respect, nothing more. Everything else he has to earn. We should politely disagree and politely avoid our agenda being blown off in a meeting, but we do not have to move off of our agenda at a meeting because he wishes it so.

        If the tech industry's #1 concern is NSA overreach then they are correct to stay on that topic until satisfied with the President's response. The tech industry is not obligated to fix his healthcare IT and personal PR problems.
        • by JWW (79176) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @12:41AM (#45722679)

          Fuck that. In my book respect has to be earned, even for the President.

          And the man currently in the job never earned my respect. The man previously in the job earned my respect, but then he lost it. The one before him didn't have my respect initially, but ironically looking at his whole record and past his indiscretions he's earned some respect for what he did with the job.

          But these latest two Presidents; in the end, neither is worthy of my respect.

      • by Nyder (754090)

        Obama forgot who his bosses are.

        Obama thought he has become the KING of the Americans.

        Obama is but one of the civil servants whose salaries are being paid by the American taxpayers.

        Although I am no great fan of President Obama, generally, and wish it was someone else, you nonetheless have that quite wrong. He isn't a "civil servant." Civil servants are hired help of the Executive branch of government.

        President Obama is the President of the United States of America, leader of the country, a position long known as leader of the Free World, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, the man empowered to authorize the launch of nuclear weapons, the head of the executive branch of the United States, the man who appoints the heads of the executive departments with the advice and consent of the Senate, the man who appoints Ambassadors, and the highest elected official in the country - one of only two national offices. His signature or acquiescence is generally required for bills passed by Congress to become law, otherwise he can block them unless the Congress musters 2/3 majority vote to override him, which rarely happens.

        He isn't king, but as President he wields the highest authority of the executive branch. When backed by Congress he has enormous power.

        You aren't his boss, he isn't a shoeshine boy that you can bark at. If you voted, you helped elect him, but that is past now. He has the office, and there is no recall. He can only be removed before his term expires for high crimes and misdemeanors as charged in the House and tried in the Senate. Although the Constitution and the courts are a key check on his power, the Congress is key. So far the country seems content on maintaining a Democratic Senate, which ensures he will have plenty of leverage to enact the unwise policies of his party.

        It would be great if you started getting this sort of stuff right, you sound like you are howling at the moon.

        No actually. Voting him in doesn't make him God, it makes him even more responsible to the American People. And currently our whole government is failing the American People badly. For example, how long did our government take to "balance" the budget? It's taken over 1600 days, since like the first year of Obama's presidency. Obama is in charge, according to you, but he's letting the people he's really in charge of, Congress be the laziest bunch of fucking slackers this country has ever scene.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          So that makes him either a liar, or the crappiest president we've ever had.

          I vote that both are the case.

      • You know, it's really quite sad how not only you enjoy licking the boots of authority, but you apparently derive special pleasure from humiliating yourself in such a manner in public, with as many reproachful eyes on you as possible. I honestly can't think of any other reason why you keep posting things like these here on Slashdot of all places.

    • by ewieling (90662) <(gro.sdronf) (ta) (cire)> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:04PM (#45721845)
      He is a rather lousy as a king or as a president. He allowed his "signature legislation" to be gutted to become the worst of socialized health care combined with the worst of privatized health care. The same people screaming about the evils of Obamacare are the same people who would be screaming about how terrible socialized medicine is. With socialized health care at least everyone would get health care.
      • by epine (68316)

        He allowed ...

        Try again. Frame your narrative in terms of viable choices.

        Indicate whether you think that previous health care reform efforts failed because the previous reform-oriented administrations A) didn't try hard enough; B) had the wrong approach and were justifiable opposed; C) accepted failure entirely against their best judgment lacking sufficient political power to ram the bill through (whether good/bad for America); or D) accepted failure when entrenched ideological opposition effectively made

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by phantomfive (622387)

          Given the nature of the ideological quagmire, one might reasonably argue that the best is the enemy of the good.

          It's not entirely clear he even managed to reach the good. It is quite possible that ACA will end up making things worse in the country.

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        some people don't want health care

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          The plans i saw where outrageously stupid. Their annual cost is more than i spent on healthcare the last five years combined (about $245 per month). And to top it off, they have a $6000 deductable and $6000 out of pocket expenses. That means over one third of my income last year before i see any real advantage if i had to use it. I had catastrophic with a $2000 deductable and only paid $135 a month and it covered broken bones, stitches, heart attacks, strokes and the rest of the crap that would have to happ

          • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

            the top line is high, but I think there are a bunch of incentives that bring down the bottom line. e.g. tax breaks. expanded medicare etc. i think the bottom line can come out to be much lower.

      • by drnb (2434720) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @12:14AM (#45722563)

        He allowed his "signature legislation" to be gutted ...

        How did he allow **his** signature legislation to be gutted? **He** never offered any legislation. He mentioned some broad guidelines during the campaign and immediately upon election turned it over to the Democratic Party leadership who immediately grabbed Democratic party supporters and lobbyists and went into the back rooms to draft the legislation in private. He immediately abandoned his leadership on the issue.

      • by Bartles (1198017)
        You mean, he completely delegated it's drafting to Nancy Pelosi, and then he signed it before he possibly could have read it and comprehended it. He just stamped his name on it and expected it to be great without having to even give it another thought.
    • An elected civil servant, who is responsible to the citizenry, taxes have nothing to do with it. We could pay him purely from tariff money and it wouldn't change his obligations.
  • Easy "fix" (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088)

    He should do what a Republican would do: lower their taxes in exchange for silence.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:16PM (#45721437) Homepage Journal
    countries, such as Brazil, move forward with legislation that would require service providers to ensure that data belonging to a citizen of a certain country remain in the country it originates

    In other words, a cash grab. Brazil isn't the most enlightened country when it comes to spying, so this is a little "pot kettle black" situation, but really its just an excuse to try to force more companies to spend more money in Brazil. It has absolutely nothing to do with the feigned "outrage" the politicians are espousing.
    • by gatkinso (15975)

      If Brazilians want to keep using an American service, then I guess that is their problem.

      Nobody is forcing them to use gmail and yahoo.... and what makes them think Google would comply? What makes them think that NSA wouldn't just hack the servers on their soil?

      • by Luckyo (1726890) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:52PM (#45721753)

        The fact that both of these companies have CEOs that would like to keep their jobs would suffice. Any CEO that would try to exit a country of size and importance of Brazil in the name of "not following local laws" where local laws are about protecting locals from spying will be gone next day.

        That goes even for Google. This isn't "we're protecting users (actually protecting our source code from being stolen)".

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Re: What makes them think that NSA wouldn't just hack the servers on their soil?
        GCHQ and the NSA would do this for tempest site use for NATO/embassy encryption machines. Plain text out near the machine, quality 'tested' encryption along the network.
        For that you need ongoing contractors or staff with a reason for access in/near the machines over time.
        Its fine if the machine manufacture is a UK/US front or tame to the needs of the US/UK gov.
        After Snowden physical site access will not be like the 1950-6
  • Nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:17PM (#45721449)
    Say what you will about America, but there's hope here yet. If Snowden is stock, most investors have not only stopped selling, he's fast becoming a savvy "Buy".
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:20PM (#45721483)

    Obama: "We are already aware of your concerns regarding surveillance. You don't think we didn't hear you muttering amongst yourselves beforehand, do you?"

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:49PM (#45721723) Journal
      The reason they had a meeting is to A) make it seem like Obama is doing something, and B) deflect blame from the president (because he is doing something).

      Soon expect to see Obama decree changes that sound impressive but in effect amount to nothing (ie, some new oversight commission).
      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Looking back over US/UK crypto history how any such 'events' where deflected in the past:
        Good use of US/UK compartmentalization from the 1950-80's really saved the NSA/GCHQ from court/press issues.
        Trials would just not be on the crypto topic and press could be brushed aside as Soviet friendly local press adding their own wild stories. i.e. simple signals intelligence that watches the Soviet Union and lots of domestic safe guards.
        Any publisher, legal advice to an author would be just as comical, you can
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:37PM (#45721629)

    Thank you Apple, Yahoo, Google, Comcast, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Netflix. You are our greatest ally!

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:33PM (#45722021)

      Big business doesn't feel they have the legal authority to send a hellfire missile into your living due to that data. I'm a little less worried about Netflix tricking me into renting more movies than I had intended. The two just aren't comparable.

      • by Anomalyst (742352)
        Howz about sending you DVD's with subject matter that would raise your threat level to "gitmo bound extraordinary rendition" at the behest of a (cant be revealed, no records kept) National Security Letter
    • by ghack (454608)

      I know this is a joke- but at least in those cases you can choose whether to use the companies products or make informed decisions that will protect your privacy. Facebook is optional- making phone calls is not.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      The full list of attendees

      The CEOs attending the White House meeting in the Roosevelt room were Tim Cook of Apple; Dick Costolo of Twitter; Chad Dickerson of Etsy; Reed Hastings of Netflix; Drew Houston of Dropbox; Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!; Burke Norton of Salesforce; Mark Pincus of Zynga; Shervin Pishevar of Sherpa Global; Brian Roberts of Comcast. Eric Schmidt of Google; and Randall Stephenson of AT&T.

      Other executives attending were Erika Rottenberg, vice president of LinkedIn; Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook; and Brad Smith, executive vice president of Microsoft.

      I have no clue why anyone from Zynga (online games) and Sherpa Global (business to business & startups) are there.
      Sherpa Global especially. The company is barely 6 months old. How can anyone call it a "tech leader"?

      /Etsy also deserves some level of "wtf?"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:45PM (#45721699)

    The companies are concerned about US government surveillance ONLY because
    they know it will cost them money.

    Otherwise the companies don't care, because if they DID care they would have
    raised hell long before now. But the companies did not do that, did they ? No,
    in fact they were willing servants for the swine in the government until the revelations
    Snowden caused caused their positions to become unpopular. SO now these
    companies are setting new records for backpedaling performance. There is not
    much if any moral difference between these companies and the Nazis who tried to
    claim they were "just following orders" when they were on trial at Nuremberg.

    As Vonnegut would have said if he were still around :

    "So it goes".

    .

    • by dido (9125) <dido.imperium@ph> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:25PM (#45721987)

      The only thing corporations care about (insofar as organisations are capable of caring about anything), most especially publicly traded corporations, is money. It would open a corporation to shareholder lawsuits if it were not trying to maximise their profits using whatever means available at its disposal. That is the nature of these monsters that have been created by legal instruments. If you want them to care about anything, you have to show them how much it will cost them not to care about it. In the absence of laws against pollution, it saves money for corporations to pollute, so to get them to stop polluting, laws are written that make them liable for fines when they do. A properly-written anti-pollution law will make it cheaper for a company to buy equipment to clean up or minimise pollution than to pay the fines the government exacts for violating the law. In the same way, it saved money for corporations to be compliant with the NSA, so now other countries are making it impossible for them to operate in their countries (which costs them a market and hence money) using systems that make it easy for the NSA to do its spying. It remains to be seen whether this potential loss of business or increased operating expenses will be enough to make them rebel against the NSA. To corporations, money talks and bullshit walks every time.

    • You normally put just factories in countries other than your own. Cisco's proposing to put development in Canada, which is unheard of. Sun and IBM used to have some limited development here when developers in California couldn't be had for love or money, but that's mostly gone by now.

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      Perhaps what you're forgetting is that these companies could have been risking their own necks if they were the only company to take a stand (if say, Google first took a stance, there's no guarantee the others would follow). Snowden has managed to fan the flames for the public, and so a company's 'weigh-in' would therefore be much more effective now anyway, let alone all the companies joining forces and weighing in which is what is happening.

      Also, none of the tech companies probably knew the full extent
    • Better to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, than the wrong thing for the right reasons. Obama has a long track record of the latter.
  • Period.

    Look, it's getting out of control.

    Tech CEOs know that.

    Only idiots in DC don't know that.

    RESPECT THE CONSTITUTION!

    P.S.: either that or let's hope an asteroid wipes out SCOTUS and Capitol Hill at the same time.

  • It's a clear and unanimous sentiment. They now understand what they have to do very clearly to serve the needs of their people, their business, and their pals in the rest of the world. There are no mixed messages here. So where is the problem?
    • It's a clear and unanimous sentiment. ... So where is the problem?

      The problem is you think the people's opinion has ever mattered in these issues. Omnivore, Carnivore, ECHELON, Five Eyes, etc. existed before PRISM. You wrongly think the people's opinion is the one that matters, I have reason to suspect you may not know what Gerrymandering is; If I'm wrong, then I apologize in advance. The problem is that you did not heed Eisenhower's warning on the last day of his office. Now, everything he cautioned us about has come to pass. [youtube.com] The problem is that the war machine doe

  • It's disheartening that the ( insert epithet ) that are busy commoditizing our lives are perturbed by the ( other epithet ) that are spying on us. A pox on all their houses.

  • It is true and has always been that the best way to get the attention of large megacorporations, technological or otherwise, is to hit them in the pocketbook. Until Mr. Snowden came along, most of these tech companies willingly, some of them enthusiastically, cooperated with the government spies who were going to pay them considerable amounts of money. Phone companies even set aside special rooms and equipment to facilitate the spy agencies desires to scarf up terabytes of data. Now that all this has come t

  • Sometimes it seems rare that personal rights and business interests intersect- but that is happening here.

    The NSA activities are really harming the credibility of the federal government and that will hurt everybody where it matters- the pocketbook.

  • by Hartree (191324) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:05PM (#45722163)

    Imagine if you were able to post a link to this discussion here on slashdot from that dim and distant time of 2008 during the election with unforgeable timestamps showing that it indeed was a slashdot discussion from late 2013..

    What a shift in a lot of people's viewpoint has happened.

    Just after the election in 2008, I said that the level of expectation surrounding Obama was so great Superman couldn't have lived up to it. I'll revise that now, and say God couldn't have lived up to it.

    I wasn't a supporter of Obama, but it probably would have mattered less than most think who won that election. My guess is that the world situation wouldn't be radically different (might be a little better, might be a little worse), and definitely the case of NSA surveillance wouldn't be all that different. It's the result of policy decisions over the last, at least, 50 years.

    We've been shown once again a truth that we seem to forget every 4-8 years in the "irrational exuberance" of campaigns.

    National political leaders (presidents, prime ministers, whatever) are amazingly limited in what they really can do. The existing policies, public perceptions, politics and geopolitical realities massively constrain their options for what decisions to make.

    Those offices are bully pulpits, as Teddy Roosevelt said, and sometimes can move nations with the preaching.

    But, in the end, it's still limited. (And you don't want to live in places where they do have largely unlimited power.)

    And, when those leaders fail to live up to what is expected (often unreasonably) by those who elected them, the backlash can be ferocious.

    Witness this discussion (or some of the ones while W. was in office here on slashdot).

  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:06PM (#45722177)
    The bottom line is "the tech industry" mines and sells your data (i.e., "every little thing you do"), so in order to keep their bottom line growing "the tech industry" must get the NSA's ability to mine for terrorist activity stopped before the American people force their (not "their" as in "the American people's", but "their" as in "the tech industry's") Representatives and Senators to again prioritize their Constitutional responsibilities above their bought-and-paid-for promises and outlaw all data mining as the invasion of privacy that it is.
    • lolll...oh, yeah: And there is some concern that what Corporate America does to make money and influence our government just might be going to hard disk somewhere.
  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:08PM (#45722191)

    What I find fascinating is how the media had us believe that the man was elected because his campaign was the "modern" one, the one that had whole of the Internet dialed in, total control over and support of social media, and everything tech and hip on its side. And yet that same organization can't get a website running properly, particularly one that people don't get to use but have to use. And that same organization wants to deflect criticism and blame for the NSA's current methods.

  • by Max_W (812974) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @05:49AM (#45724039)
    The NSA surveillance is the serious damaging problem for business. And not only for the US companies. The usage of the cloud SaS, say, the Google Apps for Business could be very profitable for a company, but the internal opposition is bringing in the data security issue. The say, - first the company data gets into hands of a rogue government official, then later it could be sold to a competitor.

    However, moving data centers to patriarchal countries could be even worse. The data centers would be periodically stopped by government officials to check sanitary conditions (as a pretext).

    All the servers could be taken out by trucks to check for an illegal content. The employees of the data centers would be hired via nepotism system, so up-time would be not great.

    The US officials are not perfect, but at least they could be called reasonable. In patriarchal societies the cloud computing model, the data centers, would not work at all. We would be obliged to switch to the silos model of desktop documents once again.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

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