NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of the U.S. government’s surveillance dragnet of Internet users has had one positive impact, according to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg: it’s made rivals in the tech industry more open to working together.
“The NSA issues, I think they’re a real issue, especially for U.S. Internet companies,” he said today. “Trust is such an important thing when you think about using any Internet services and sharing personal information.”
Zuckerberg was speaking during a Q&A keynote at the Mobile World Congress conference here in Barcelona, and was asked whether the NSA revelations might jeopardize the mission of the Internet.org coalition, which has the big-ticket ambition of connecting everyone in the world to the Internet and of which Facebook is a leading/founder member.
Zuckerberg played down the potential impact that fear of government surveillance might have on Internet.org’s mission — and indeed argued the reverse, saying that he thought it might make the goal easier because of a new spirit of collaboration in a post-Snowden tech world.
“The NSA issues have industry working together better than ever before,” he said, adding: “Historically we’ve had issues working with some of our competitors aligning on policy issues that even help the whole industry – Internet policy issues – but now it’s such an important thing, because of how extreme some of the NSA revelations were, I do feel that a lot of the industry is a lot more aligned.”
Zuckerberg did not name any names, in terms of who exactly used to be hostile to his overtures and is now less so, but one likely candidate here is (presumably) Google.
In further comments on the NSA issue, Zuckerberg added that the agreement, secured from the U.S. government, for Facebook to be able to share “everything the government’s asking of us” — in terms of requests for user data — has also been “helpful” to dissipating people’s fears about the extent of government data-mining of Facebook.
But he was also critical of the government over its lack of transparency around its surveillance programs and generally on the impact on Internet services. “It’s not awesome,” he said. “The government kind of blew it on this… They were just way over the line.”
“They are only just now starting to get to where they should have been,” he added. “I think this whole thing could have been avoidable.”