Facebook's Zuckerberg Called Obama to 'Express Frustration' Over NSA Spy Programs

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg Albert Gea/Reuters

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg called President Barack Obama on Wednesday to “express frustration” over the government’s surveillance and hacking programs, one day after the latest investigative report from reporter Glenn Greenwald’s news project The Intercept revealed that the National Security Agency was able to sneak into people's Web browsers en masse and infect them with malware. The report was based on documents provided by leaker Edward Snowden.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Zuckerberg did not directly reference The Intercept’s new report but admonished the U.S. for the “damage the government is creating for all of our future.”

“When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we're protecting you against criminals, not our own government,” Zuckerberg wrote. “The U.S. government should be the champion for the Internet, not a threat.”

The White House acknowledged the phone conversation, and pointed to an NSA statement that denies the allegations.

“NSA does not use its technical capabilities to impersonate U.S. company websites,” the statement said. “Nor does NSA target any user of global Internet services without appropriate legal authority. Reports of indiscriminate computer exploitation operations are simply false.”

In Thursday’s Facebook post, Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook encrypts communication and uses secure protocols for traffic. Last June, Zuckerberg made a slightly less direct (and less reassuring) statement, saying that Facebook did not work with the NSA to “proactively” give up user information.

In a bit of ironic finger-pointing, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that former NSA deputy director John C. Inglis chastised tech companies for not being transparent enough about how they collect their users’ data.

Read Zuckerberg’s full Facebook post below:

As the world becomes more complex and governments everywhere struggle, trust in the internet is more important today than ever.

The internet is our shared space. It helps us connect. It spreads opportunity. It enables us to learn. It gives us a voice. It makes us stronger and safer together.

To keep the internet strong, we need to keep it secure. That's why at Facebook we spend a lot of our energy making our services and the whole internet safer and more secure. We encrypt communications, we use secure protocols for traffic, we encourage people to use multiple factors for authentication and we go out of our way to help fix issues we find in other people's services.

The internet works because most people and companies do the same. We work together to create this secure environment and make our shared space even better for the world.

This is why I've been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we're protecting you against criminals, not our own government.

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

I've called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.

So it's up to us -- all of us -- to build the internet we want. Together, we can build a space that is greater and a more important part of the world than anything we have today, but is also safe and secure. I'm committed to seeing this happen, and you can count on Facebook to do our part.