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Mark Zuckerberg on NSA spying: 'The government blew it'

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Facebook CEO calls for more transparency in interview at TechCrunch Disrupt


The federal government has done a bad job recently in balancing its job protecting US citizens from terrorism with its role in defending civil liberties, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said today at TechCrunch Disrupt. "Frankly, I think that the government blew it," he said. "They blew it on communicating the balance of what they were going for with this."

Facebook was implicated earlier this summer when documents leaked by former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden suggested it was among the companies that participate in PRISM, allowing government agencies to harvest messages, photographs and other documents from their internal servers. Zuckerberg denied that Facebook gives the government direct access to its servers, saying requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Pushing for more disclosures

Zuckerberg, speaking on the day his company's stock hit an all-time high, said his job is to ensure that the data Facebook users upload to its servers remains safe. The company has joined with others named in the original PRISM documents in asking the government to release more information about the quantity and the scope of the data it requests.

On Monday, Facebook joined Yahoo in filing suit asking the FISA court for permission to publish more detailed data on the government's requests for user information. Zuckerberg said the company worked behind the scenes with authorities to begin including some requests in its transparency report, which it last updated in June.

He'll soon get to make his case directly to lawmakers. Politico reported today that Zuckerberg will travel to Washington next week to meet with top Republicans in the House of Representatives. The agenda is broad but is expected to include discussion of the NSA leaks and related privacy issues for Facebook, according to the report.

Zuckerberg's comments came toward the end of a wide-ranging talk that also included discussion of Yahoo's new logo ("it seems fine"), Bill Gates ("one of the greatest visionaries that our industry has ever had"), and how Twitter should proceed with an initial public offering. "I'm the last person you would want to ask how to make a smooth IPO," Zuckerberg joked, referring to his company's own notoriously rocky debut.

Instagram coming to Facebook home

Interviewer Michael Arrington did score one piece of product news from the discussion: Instagram is coming to the Facebook Home lock screen. Zuckerberg said that users of Facebook Home wanted to see content beyond photos from the News Feed, and that bringing in content from Instagram and as-yet unnamed other places will help improve the experience.

Home has been slow to take off, but Zuckerberg said he remains committed to the idea of a Facebook layer running on top of Android. "We're going to keep on working on it till we get it right," he said.