President Barack Obama huddled with top technology executives at the White House Tuesday, with the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs atop the agenda.
"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," the executives said in a joint statement after the meeting.
The White House called the meeting "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."
"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," the administration said in a statement.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, Yahoo president Marissa Mayer, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt were among the 15 tech bigwigs in attendance. Also present were top leaders from Twitter, Comcast, Netflix, AT&T and Microsoft.
The meeting came just one day after a federal judge ruled that the NSA’s gathering of data on all telephone calls made in the United States violates the Constitution.
Earlier this month, several of the nation’s biggest technology companies signed on to an open letter to the White House urging reform of government surveillance practices.
“We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight,” the signatories wrote.
Also slated for discussion in the meeting was the repair of the beleaguered HealthCare.Gov website.
On Tuesday, the administration announced that Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene will replace Jeffrey Zients as a special consultant for the website for the Department of Health and Human Services. DelBene most recently served as the president of the Microsoft Office division, and now will be tasked with continuing the overhaul of the health care portal.
While the agenda was set to be serious, the country’s most powerful techies started it off with a laugh.
At the beginning of the meeting, Obama joked that he had hoped to get an advance copy of the new season of the Netflix series “House of Cards,” which portrays a vengeful congressman’s Machiavellian rise to power by sowing deceit and human misery.
“I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” Obama quipped of the style of lead character Rep. Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey.
First published December 17 2013, 10:11 AM