Tech giants get Obama's ear on NSA

WASHINGTON (POLITICO) - Forget repairs to a malfunctioning website or the country's broken procurement process. Tech leaders had a clear plan when they sat down with President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning: pushing him on surveillance.

The White House billed the president's conversation with industry executives as a discussion largely focused on and the problems hindering federal IT. But tech bigwigs used the morning to highlight another agenda item -- how the bulk collection of Internet data crossed legal lines and threatened their business.

"We appreciate 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," said a spokesperson on behalf of tech companies pushing for reforms.

Tech titans such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft signed onto a letter last week signaling their most vocal frustration yet towards National Security Agency data grabs, particularly the collection of bulk Internet information. All but one, AOL, attended the event.

Obama met for more than an hour with 15 executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Microsoft Vice President Brad Smith.

The visit occurs a day after a federal judge ruled an NSA program that scoops up millions of American phone records violated the Constitution. A representative for one of the participating companies said the judge's decision further reinforced their plans to talk reform.

The talk also follows the release of recommendations from a presidential task force about the NSA's authority. The group suggests telecom companies, rather than the agency, store American phone records. Industry despises the idea and has long fought it. These companies also have a business interest in assuring customers around the world feel safe using their services.

AOL, which signed its name to the December letter, did not join the event. The company did not specify why it did not attend but said its views "are well-represented by the group in attendance."

Other attendees Tuesday included AT&T Randall Stephenson, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Salesforce chief legal officer Burke Norton, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Sherpa Global co-CEO Shervin Pishevar, and LinkedIn Vice President Erika Rottenberg.

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