Facebook, Yahoo CEOs talk, briefly, about NSA programs

STEPHEN LAM/REUTERS - Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer claps during a Startup Battlefield session at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012 at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse in San Francisco, California in this September 12, 2012, file photo.

Tech companies may face legal restrictions on how much information they can share about their participation in U.S. government surveillance programs, but that doesn’t mean they have to stay completely silent.

At this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, two prominent technology executives offered commentary on the programs — making it clear that they would like the legal leeway to say more.

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Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that the U.S. government “blew it” when it came to communicating the motivations behind its surveillance program and that it didn’t properly balance the requirements entailed in protecting “all of us, our freedom and the economy.”

In a separate interview, the Telegraph reported, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said that while revealing any more information about the programs would amount to “treason,” she is proud that Yahoo has spent years challenging government requests for information that it found questionable.

Both Facebook and Yahoo — along with Microsoft, Google and other tech companies — filed official complaints with the government asking for the ability to disclose more information about how many such requests they receive and what kinds of infomation may be included in them. The companies have been very vocal about their push to share more information about the requests, but these may be the strongest public remarks that the chief executives have made to date.

Following the revelations about the National Security Agency programs, both firms have also received permission to release some information about requests from law enforcement. In August, Facebook issued its first government transparency report; Yahoo followed suit in September

(Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

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