Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook March 13 to vent about a disappointing phone call with President Obama and the National Security Agency’s (NSA) ongoing practice of spying on everyone.
“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,” Zuckerberg wrote on his News Feed. “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.
He continued, “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”
In July, a number of prominent tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, were accused of granting the U.S. government access to their servers and user data—accusations the companies denied. It was later discovered that while these companies were complying with the law and offering the government much of the front-door access it requested, the government was also sneaking in via backdoors of its own making.
In January, the president proposed measures to end eavesdropping on friends and allies of the United States, and reforms to give the American people “greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.”
But change has not come quickly enough.
“I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future,” wrote Zuckerberg. “Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a long time for the true full reform.”
The success of Zuckerberg’s social network hinges on user trust. We share photos, data and opinions, and Facebook sells us to advertisers, while making certain promises about security and privacy. When the NSA cuts a backdoor into Facebook’s servers, that model gets upended.
Though even before Snowden revealed the NSA’s actions, Americans had trust issues with Facebook. In a 2012 poll from AP-CNBC, 59 percent of respondents said they had “little or no” trust in Facebook. And in a follow-up 2013 poll by Reason.com, 75 percent of participants said they had “only a little or no trust at all” in Facebook, while 64 percent said the same about the IRS and 59 percent said the same about the NSA. Only 2 percent of respondents said they trusted Facebook “a lot.”
News site The Intercept reported March 12 that documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the agency has developed surveillance technology to “infect” potentially millions of computers with malware “implants.”
“In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive,” said the report.
“In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam,” it continued. “The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyber-attacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.”
Zuckerberg concluded his post by saying, with vague confidence, that it was up to “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,” he wrote. “I’m committed to seeing this happen, and you can count on Facebook to do our part.”