Zuckerberg Called Obama To “Express Frustration” Over Spying’s Threat To Internet Security

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Facebook Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg made a rare posting on his Facebook page to assure his followers that he takes government threats to Internet security seriously.

“I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future,” he wrote in the note, most likely in relation to recent revelations that the National Security Agency has been hacking into computers and weakening security standards.

Specifically, Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept published new information from Snowden explaining how the government could pretend to be Facebook to push surveillance malware to users. “In one man-on-the-side technique, codenamed QUANTUMHAND, the agency disguises itself as a fake Facebook server. When a target attempts to log in to the social media site, the NSA transmits malicious data packets that trick the target’s computer into thinking they are being sent from the real Facebook. By concealing its malware within what looks like an ordinary Facebook page, the NSA is able to hack into the targeted computer and covertly siphon out data from its hard drive. A top-secret animation demonstrates the tactic in action.”

You can see that animation in the video below:

Perhaps more than any of the other tech giants, Facebook depends on the premise of trust and privacy, even though the social network has a shaky past in those areas. Its entire business model revolves around people volunteering personal information that it’s supposed to keep hidden. Only the confidential professional data held in Google’s Gmail can rival Facebook in terms of sensitivity. That’s why the two have the most to lose from the NSA shaking the public’s faith in a secure Internet.

“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,” wrote Zuckerberg. “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.”

This isn’t the first time Zuckerberg has been critical of the NSA. At our own TechCrunch disrupt conference last September, he said the “Government blew it” in deciding how to balance privacy vs. security. Then in January of this year, Zuckerberg said he worried government surveillance means the U.S. “loses the moral high ground” when it comes to advocating for freedom of speech. He implied domestic surveillance could bolster international oppression.

But unlike Zuckerberg’s previous criticisms, there are no prominent proposals from President Obama on how to deal with the NSA’s penchant for meddling with international security standards or releasing malware to hack computers. Currently, the president is considering whether the government should hold bulk collections of Internet data and whether there should be more privacy advocates in intelligence agencies. Congress is planning to take up NSA reform sometime this year.

If Facebook users worry that when they come to the site, they’re actually downloading NSA malware, or that the government can illegally peek at their data, they might be wary visiting or sharing the content and biographical data Facebook depends on. For Facebook, the government’s surveillance free-for-all isn’t just morally reprehensible, it’s a hazard to its business.

We have pasted the full post from Zuckerberg 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.

[Image Credit: White House]