(Left to right ): Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Barack Obama and AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson

Tech companies press Obama on cyber surveillance

Top technology company executives have pressed US President Barack Obama to rein in his government's electronic spying.

Executives from Apple, Google, Yahoo, Netflix, Comcast, AT&T, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and other companies met privately for more than two hours with Obama and top White House aides yesterday.

The White House had trumpeted the meeting as a chance to talk up progress made in repairing the Obamacare website after its botched rollout, but a brief statement released after the session showed the tech companies focused solely on government surveillance not healthcare.

"We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the President our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform," the technology companies said in their statement.

The session came as Obama and his national security team decide what recommendations to adopt from an outside panel's review on constraining the activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) without compromising US national security.

The NSA's practices essentially made the companies partners in sweeping government surveillance efforts against private citizens.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the meeting as constructive and "not at all contentious". Obama and a clutch of his top advisers – including national security adviser Susan Rice and counterterrorism aide Lisa Monaco – listened closely to the company executives' ideas and concerns, the official added.

The White House said after the meeting that the President and the executives discussed the national security and economic impacts of unauthorised intelligence disclosures as Obama nears completion on his intelligence review.

"The President made clear his belief in an open, free and innovative Internet and listened to the group's concerns and recommendations, and made clear that we will consider their input as well as the input of other outside stakeholders as we finalise our review of signals-intelligence programs," the White House said in a statement.

The meeting came after a federal judge ruled on Monday that the US government's gathering of Americans' phone records is likely unlawful, something Obama's nominee to be chief legal counsel to the CIA was forced to contend yesterday, citing a 1979 case often used as precedent in privacy cases.

"I have a different view about the Fourth Amendment," nominee Caroline Krass said at a Senate hearing. "I think that under Smith v. Maryland, which I still consider to be good law, there is not a reasonable expectation of privacy in telephony metadata.

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