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Obama Zucker-punched: 'NSA PR bungle whacked public trust in web giants'

Facebook's Cap'n Zuck ain't goin' down with his frigate, yarr

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This year's bombshell news about the NSA's global internet snooping has shattered public trust in US web giants, claims Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg.

You could say that those companies' wildly oscillating privacy policies had something to do with the erosion of netizens' faith in privacy protections. But Zuck adamantly blames public unrest on the Obama administration's handling of the fallout surrounding the planet-wide dragnet revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Zuckerberg was in Washington this week to discuss immigration-law reform, but took time out to go off on one during a rare interview with the press.

He told The Atlantic's editor-in-chief James Bennet that American firms took a hit when details of the NSA's internet spying programme were leaked by Snowden.

Zuckerberg claimed that when his social network cocked up with people's privacy, "what we found is that that stuff tends to not actually move the needle that much in the grand perceptions around trust," adding, "The NSA stuff did."

And for his rivals Google, Twitter, etc., "the trust metrics for all of them went down" as a result of Snowden's whistleblowing, alleged Zuck.

And the Facebook head honcho suggested that American spymasters and their political leaders should be a bit more open about their tactics.

"What I can tell from the data that I see at Facebook is that I think the more transparency and communication the government could do about how they're requesting the data from us, the better everyone would feel about it," he said.

"From reading in the media, you couldn't get a sense whether the number of requests that the government makes is closer to a thousand or closer to a 100 million. ... I think the more transparency the government has, the better folks would feel."

In a somewhat ironic attack, Zuckerberg criticised the government for seeking masses of data on people – a trick that is Facebook's stock in trade. "Is the government just trying to get access to every person's information?" he asked.

"Some of the government's statements have been particularly unhelpful," added Zuckerberg with one eye on global domination. "Like, oh, we only spy on non-Americans."

Facebook has launched a legal bid to be allowed to publish details of spooks' requests for users' private data, joining Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, which have all fired off similar action. Such requests are classified secrets and rubber-stamped by America's Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is supposed to oversee the NSA's operations.

But perhaps the most shocking development of all is that Zuck ditched the hoodie-and-jeans student clobber he usually sports, instead choosing to wear a sombre suit for his meetings with politicians that included Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi. He faces an uphill struggle to push through immigration reforms aimed at boosting the tech industry.

Hammering home a point most of us have known for some time, he also confessed, "I'm, like, the least cool person there is."

We, like, noticed that a while back, Zuck. ®

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