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Facebook CEO Zuckerberg phoned Obama to complain about spying

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sits for audience questions in an onstage interview for the Atlantic Magazine in Washington, September 18, 2013
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sits for audience questions in an onstage interview for the Atlantic Magazine in Washington, September 18, 2013

By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg blasted the U.S. government's electronic surveillance practices on Thursday, saying he'd personally called President Barack Obama to voice his displeasure.

"When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we're protecting you against criminals, not our own government," Zuckerberg said in a post on his personal Facebook page.

"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," the 29-year-old Zuckerberg continued.

The phone call and Zuckerberg's 300-word missive on Thursday come amid a series of revelations about controversial government surveillance practices that were leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

"The president spoke last night with Mark Zuckerberg about recent reports in the press about alleged activities by the U.S. intelligence community," a White House official said.

The official declined further comment and referred to the National Security Agency's statement released earlier on Thursday saying recent media reports that allege the NSA has infected million of computers around the world malware and that the NSA is impersonating U.S. social media or other websites are inaccurate.

Facebook, which operates the world's No. 1 Internet social network with 1.2 billion users, declined to comment beyond Zuckerberg's post.

Secret documents published on news website The Intercept on Wednesday showed that the NSA impersonated Facebook web pages in order to gather information from targets. When those people thought they were logging into Facebook, they were actually communicating with the NSA. The agency then used malicious code on the fake page to break into the targets' computers and remove data from them.

Last year, Facebook moved to encrypt all its pages, making such impersonation more difficult.

Previous media reports based on leaked Snowden documents detail how the government may have tapped into communications cables that link data centers owned by Google Inc and Yahoo Inc, intercepting user data without the companies' knowledge or cooperation.

"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," Zuckerberg said in his post.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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