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Friday, December 9, 2016

Washington (AFP) – Bosses from Internet giants including Twitter and Facebook Tuesday pressed President Barack Obama for reforms of U.S. spy agency snooping, adding to rising heat from the courts and American allies.

Obama met a group of the country’s most iconic Silicon Valley firms and spent two hours discussing the National Security Agency’s clandestine electronic data mining operation, known as PRISM, a participant in the meeting said.

The Internet company bosses fear that NSA operations have crossed constitutional lines and infringe the privacy of their customers and users in the United States and abroad and could also impact their economic bottom lines.

“We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the President our principles on government surveillance,” said a representative of the companies after the meeting ended.

“We urge him to move aggressively on reform.”

Another participant said the session started with a discussion on attempts to repair the Healthcare.gov website that undermined the rollout of Obama’s health care reform package.

Then, the president and Vice President Joe Biden spent two hours going through the implications of NSA programs.

The talks focused on reforms of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which regulates clandestine eavesdropping, electronic privacy legislation and other legal issues.

The participant said the Internet firm executives laid out their case for transparency in the programs.

Top executives at the talks included Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Tim Cook of Apple, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, Eric Schmidt of Google and Dick Costolo of Twitter.

Eight leading U.S.-based technology companies last week called on Washington to overhaul its surveillance laws following revelations of online eavesdropping.

“The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution,” they wrote in an open letter to Obama.

The meeting came a day after a U.S. court ruled that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone records was probably unconstitutional, in the first blow of a long legal tussle over the program.

It also took place as Obama considers the findings of an intelligence review panel he set up to recommend reform of spy agency snooping in the wake of revelations by fugitive intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.

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