Marissa Mayer Says Revealing NSA Pressure to Seize User Data is Considered "Treason"


When Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg says you "blew it," it doesn't matter if you're the town traffic cop or the president of the United States; chances are, you probably screwed up.

During the Techcrunch Disrupt conference held in San Francisco, both Zuckerberg and Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, voiced their concerns over the battle of privacy between the United States government, big information business, and you, the everyday consumer. The NSA surveillance scandal made up most of their argument where, in their opinion, the United States did a fantastically horrible job at balancing people's privacy and their duty to protect their constituents. More importantly, this wasn't a mistake that only shred the reputation of policymakers, but of any information business that was even remotely associated with the scandal in the first place.

Since the NSA news was released, critics of these various companies have demanded that tech execs do more to further their efforts for transparent practices. Mayer, however, fought back using a shocking reality these executives must deal with. "Releasing classified information is treason and you are incarcerated," she said, when asked why tech companies had not told the public about U.S. surveillance. Mark Zuckerberg added, "We are not at the end of this. I wish that the government would be more proactive about communicating." Not only would this transparency then be subject to public debate and scrutiny, but it would allow these information moguls to honestly and proactively respond to consumer demand.

Since government programs like PRISM specifically target major internet companies, Zuckerberg described the government response something like "'Oh don't worry, we're not spying on any Americans.' Oh, wonderful: that's really helpful to companies trying to serve people around the world, and that's really going to inspire confidence in American internet companies."

Yahoo themselves actually did fight within the system when they tried (unsuccessfully) to sue FISA, the foreign intelligence surveillance court that provides legal security for NSA activity. Since then, multiple major tech firms, including Microsoft and Google, have been pushing for the right to publish the number of requests they have received from the NSA regarding user data. But as of now, companies are forbidden by frightening, strict laws to not disclose how much data they provide.

The latest progress on the issue includes executives from Yahoo, Facebook, Google and other tech leaders who all met on Monday along with the president's group on intelligence and communications to review the restrictions and communications needs of each party. Needless to say, discussions were likely tense as the meeting came on the heels of yet another lawsuit filed by Facebook and Yahoo against FISA to publicly reveal more information "about the types (if any) of national security requests."

Google finally asked for one more crucial appeal: "Given the important public policy issues at stake, we have also asked the court to hold its hearing in open rather than behind closed doors. It's time for more transparency."

In this case, the American public may very well get to see the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly.