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Apple CEO attends Obama-led meeting about government surveillance

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The leader of one of tech’s most secretive companies joined a high-level meeting with President Barack Obama this week and other tech and privacy leaders to talk about secrecy.

According to Politico:

“President Barack Obama hosted Apple CEO Tim Cook, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Google computer scientist Vint Cerf and other tech executives and civil liberties leaders on Thursday for a closed-door meeting about government surveillance, sources tell POLITICO.”

There aren’t many details on what was discussed, but it’s apparently just one of a series of meetings the Obama administration has held recently with tech industry representatives on the ongoing government surveillance programs — that it would much rather not discuss publicly. On Tuesday, administration officials (though not Obama) met to talk privacy and surveillance with “tech-industry lobbyists and leading privacy hawks,” according to the report.

Apple(s AAPL) was one of the major tech firms named as having cooperated with federal investigations of customers through “back door” channels into its servers. Apple has denied allowing the government access. It did publish in June a list of how many government requests for user data it received between December 2012 and June (more than 4,000). But it hasn’t offered any further explanation or detail as to how it handled those.

Cook may not have much to say publicly about what he talked about with the president. But his presence does show that Apple is increasingly receptive to playing a role in policy.

2 Responses to “Apple CEO attends Obama-led meeting about government surveillance”

  1. The NSA’s extensive surveillance of virtually all Americans demonstrated quite effectively that there’s no one of any importance in Silicon Valley with the backbone to stand up to an intrusive state–including Apple’s Tim Cook. I’ve long suspected that for the simplest of reasons. It’d be trivial to add public key encryption to email applications, so their text isn’t sent in the clear. It hasn’t happened because the NSA doesn’t want it to happen.

    In medicine there’s a principle that too much monitoring (i.e. testing for rare cancers) is counterproductive. It results in a false security and too many false positives. Real clues get ignored.

    The same is true of these Total Situation Awareness schemes. They generate a lot of worthless data while at the same time real warnings are left unheeded. Russia and others warned us about the Boston Marathon bombers well in advance and yet nothing was done.

    The really scary aspect of this are all the other purposes this data can be used for. Under Obama, the IRS targeted organizations opposed to the administration’s policies, but had little information about which individuals to target. With data about the data about political viewpoints already being collected by Amazon and Google, it could target individuals for nasty IRS audits and false accusations.

    I’m not impressed that the news of NSA spying had to leak out through other sources. The same skills that Apple and others use to hide their secrets could have been used to covertly leak what the NSA was doing in ways that couldn’t be traced back to Apple or some other firm. All it takes is a chain of cutouts, none of who know the name of those on either side of them in the chain. Even the NSA tracking doesn’t extending to knowing everyone we’ve had passing contact with in fast-food restrooms and the like. Create a chain of half-a-dozen such people and the contacts to be investigated run into the millions.

  2. Onaplioa Thanh

    I thought that the most secretive companies joined a high-level meeting with President Barack Obama this week and other tech and privacy leaders to talk about secrecy on ap