[telecom] In Surveillance Debate, White House Turns Its Focus to Silicon Valley

In Surveillance Debate, White House Turns Its Focus to Silicon Valley


WASHINGTON - Nearly a year after the first disclosures about the National Security Agency's surveillance practices at home and abroad, the agency is emerging with mandates to make only modest changes: some new limits on what kind of data about Americans it can hold, and White House oversight of which foreign leaders' cellphones it can tap and when it can conduct cyberoperations against adversaries.

The big question now is whether Silicon Valley will get off as easily. It was the subject of a new White House report about how technology and the crunching of big data about the lives of Americans

- from which websites they visit to where they drive their newly networked cars - are enlarging the problem.

At their core, the questions about the N.S.A. are strikingly similar to those about how Google, Yahoo, Facebook and thousands of application makers crunch their numbers. The difference is over the question of how far the government will go to restrain the growth of its own post-Sept. 11 abilities, and whether it will decide the time has come to intrude on what private industry collects, in the name of protecting privacy or preventing new forms of discrimination.

President Obama alluded to that at the White House on Friday, when he was forced to take up the issue at a news conference with one of the N.S.A.'s most prominent targets: Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who said she was still not satisfied with America's responses to the revelations that her phone - and her country - were under blanket surveillance for a dozen years.


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Monty Solomon
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