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Mark Zuckerberg says NSA spying is worse than Facebook's privacy theft

Calls for more transparency
Thu Sep 19 2013, 15:07
Mark Zuckerberg, backing immigration and openness

SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed concerns about government overreach and NSA surveillance.

Zuckerberg was being interviewed by The Atlantic magazine when he said that spying stories are eroding faith in IT services in a way that they could never do themselves. The social networking pioneer was interviewed for about 40 minutes in a relatively cosy chat with editor in chief of The Atlantic James Bennet.

Compared to Walt Disney in the introduction, Zuckerberg was wearing his trademark jeans and a hoodie. He was happy to talk about the scale of the surveillance issue.

"What I can tell from the data that I see at Facebook is that I think the more transparency and communication the government could do about how they're requesting the data from us, the better everyone would feel about it," he said.

"From reading in the media, you couldn't get a sense whether the number of requests that the government makes is closer to a thousand or closer to a 100 million... I think the more transparency the government has, the better folks would feel."

Facebook has petitioned the US foreign surveillance court for the right to reveal the number of national security related data requests it gets, but so far it has not received permission.

Zuckerberg was asked about where the firm draws the line between users' personal data and data commercialisation. He said that Facebook has "fixed lines", adding that the company does not give advertisers access to its data but instead targets ads at its users itself. "Relevant ads are better than less relevant ads," he added. "Most things in life are not free."

The social media leader said that the NSA's snooping has done more to erode confidence in the Facebook system than any of the previous privacy flaps its users have endured. He said that the security agencies should be clearer and more open.

"Some of the government's statements have been profoundly unhelpful," he said. "Like, oh, we only spy on non-Americans."

Facebook's own privacy flaps did not have much impact on the business, he added, but the Snowden PRISM revelations have.

"What we found is that that stuff tends to not actually move the needle that much in the grand perceptions around trust," he said, "[the] NSA stuff did."

Zuckerberg also talked about easing restrictions on highly skilled immigrants. He said that most of the technology companies' leaders that he knows have struggled to fill engineering roles.

"The issue is that there are not enough talented people that we can bring into the country," he said. "[Technology companies] care about the bigger issue." µ

 

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