President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden must have faced some criticism about data collection by the National Security Agency when top executives of 15 major Web companies -- including Comcast Corp., Google, Twitter and Yahoo -- met on Tuesday at the White House.
The meeting came on the heels of a ruling Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon that the NSA must discontinue its bulk collection of phone records because it likely violates the Fourth Amendment.
Eight tech companies -- including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Corp. -- last week also formed an advocacy campaign entitled "Reform Government Surveillance," calling for tighter controls on how the government collects personal information and expressing concern that bad press might make them seem vulnerable to spying and could damage trust with customers.
"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," a joint statement released by the executives after Tuesday's meeting says.
The group also included executives from Netflix, AT&T Inc. and other companies. Along with intelligence reform, members discussed efficiency challenges related to federal IT procurement and customer-service challenges facing the Healthcare.gov website, according to a statement from the White House.
An advisory group of legal and technology experts additionally submitted a report over the weekend with approximately 40 recommendations to improve oversight of intelligence-gathering, which the White House plans to make public and use to draft its own policy proposals, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a briefing Tuesday.
"This was an opportunity for the president to hear from CEOs directly as we near completion of our review of ... intelligence programs, building on the feedback we've received from the private sector in recent weeks and months," the White House statement said. "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 finalize our review of ... intelligence programs."
Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday defended NSA data collection as a crucial part of national security and said Leon's ruling "differs from those of at least 15 separate federal district court judges who sit, or have sat, on the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] and have reauthorized the program every 90 days, a total of 35 times in all."
"Only the Supreme Court can resolve the question on the constitutionality of the NSA's program," Feinstein said. "I welcome a Supreme Court review since it has been more than 30 years since the court's original decision of constitutionality, and I believe it is crucial to settling the issue once and for all. In the meantime, the call records program remains in effect."