Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has had just about enough of the government meddling with his website and spying on his users. So last week he called a pal to complain – President Obama.
Zuck casually mentioned the call in a Facebook page post responding to the latest revelation from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden (via activist journalist Glenn Greenwald). The story, which the NSA flatly denies, described how government computers masqueraded as Facebook servers to send malware that infected Facebook users’ machines in order to spy on them. The automated process meant the NSA could target millions of users.
In his post, Zuckerberg said he was “confused and frustrated” by the continuing reports of government surveillance. “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.”
The White House confirmed the conversation took place but offered nothing more, and nothing will really come of it. Zuck and his tech pals are in the right, of course, but powerless to do anything other than complain – loudly and visibly.
THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to Zuckerberg, who, if immobilized, at least needs to show he’s good and steamed.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Talk the walk. In this matter, there seems to be little else that Facebook and other Tech Titans can do, at least publicly. With each new damning revelation, the public trust in sites like Facebook dies a little more, and that directly and dramatically affects the bottom line. When Snowden’s leaks first hit the press, the implication was that Facebook et al were complicit in the spying. That taint has never quite dissipated from the seemingly interminable storyline. Zuck reached out in an necessary symbolic gesture with his phone call to the President – but it probably ended with, “Thanks, Obama.”