President Obama held a meeting with some of the biggest names in American technology at the White House today. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Netflix’s Reed Hastings, Eric Schmidt of Google, and many other notable names were all invited to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave to discuss the National Security Agency’s ongoing use of cyber-tech, including social media giant Facebook, in controversial surveillance programs and some of the challenges of cleaning up the agency’s abuses. President Obama explained to the group that while he understands the need for reform, he has to consider matters of privacy, technology, and counter-terrorism before taking any new steps toward change.
While the meeting is considered by privacy advocates to be an important step forward in the continued debate over government overreach and Americans’ privacy, at least one key player from the meeting isn’t convinced — Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. After the meeting, Facebook issued a statement saying, “While the U.S. government has taken helpful steps to reform its surveillance practices, these are simply not enough.” Clearly, one of the most important men in the technology sphere was less than impressed following his meeting with Mr. Obama.
A Matter of Public Perception
Quite frankly, Zuckerberg can’t afford to ignore the continued privacy issues brought to light by Edward Snowden and his partnership with Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept. It was revealed last week that the NSA had been using sophisticated technology to mimic Facebook servers, duping “targets” into logging into the site. From that point, data-gathering malware was installed on any and all Facebook users’ computers. The security loophole allowing this breach of Facebook’s servers has been closed, and Zuckerberg, realizing the potential for a crisis of faith, made a call to President Obama to stress his concern over the NSA’s continued steamrolling of American civil liberties. Much like this most recent meeting, Facebook’s young CEO came away from that conversation unimpressed. Regardless, with 50% of Americans saying they’re concerned about their online privacy, Zuckerberg can’t simply wait for the problem to resolve itself.
While some people may feel that Zuckerberg’s reaction is justified, others feel that government and private enterprise should leave each other alone, even when privacy is not the issue.
“I feel really strongly that politics and free business enterprise should not mix,” explains Marcy Moore, VP of sales atMorePro Marketing. “I’m not sure if the trend that has been happening over the last few years with business and politics has been beneficial for business.”
More Importantly, It’s a Matter of Revenue
As it stands, Facebook earns around $7 billion a year in advertising revenue. Why do so many businesses flock to Facebook to advertise themselves? Exposure. The most recently available statistics put the social media behemoth’s user-base at 1.4 billion people. Each of those people represents a potential customer for businesses, whether they’re selling an idea, like Upworthy, or they’re trying to sell the latest gaming console, like SONY. If Facebook doesn’t address these privacy issues now — and no, it doesn’t matter if they’re directly responsible or not — the resulting flight of users to more secure services can and will directly impact their bottom-line in a big way.
Do you think that continued NSA surveillance will negatively impact Facebook’s popularity with web surfers and advertisers?