President Barack Obama is scheduled to give a keynote speech and have a private lunch with a select group of top executives on Friday (tomorrow). It’s a cybersecurity summit where top executives from the technology industry are supposed to rub shoulders with each other and with the president, of course. But the current sour relations between White House and Silicon Valley will see the absence of some top guns.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt were all invited but won’t attend the public conference at Stanford University. Microsoft Corp also joins the bandwagon and all the them have decided to send their top information security executives to the summit instead. Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook is planning to show to the event though.
When Obama won the presidency in 2008 and re-election in 2012, the technology industry had been a vital source of political support, campaign contributions and assistance in developing cutting-edge technology tactics for him. Tomorrow’s submit will focus on enhancing collaboration between companies and agencies, improving cybersecurity to protect consumers and better securing payment processing systems.
Microsoft and Google employees donated US$854,717 and US$817,855 respectively to Obama in the 2008 election cycle. In the 2012 re-election campaign, Microsoft and Google employees became the second and third ranking sources of campaign cash for Obama, behind the University of California. This round, Microsoft employees gave his campaign US$814,645, while Google employees contributed US$801,770.
Last month, Obama proudly announced the submit is important as it’s going to bring everybody – tech companies, law enforcement, law professors, consumers – together. It’s a brainstorming session with important objectives to improve information sharing about hacking threats and establishing a national standard for companies to report data breaches. But Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook are silently boycotting the submit.
It’s not hard to understand why the top technology giant CEOs are not attending and drawing a line between them and Obama administration. Thanks to revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spying exposed by former U.S. contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook have been struggling to assure their users that their products are secure.
Understandably, Apple and Google have updated their smartphone operating systems by encrypting the data, essentially making them no longer accessible by the company themselves, let alone law enforcement such as NSA. Apple claims it cannot bypass customers’ passcode and therefore cannot access their data, which means even if NSA came to Apple with a seized device and a valid warrant, the company couldn’t do anything.
Beside Apple’s Tim Cook, top executives from MasterCard, Bank of America and Symantec will attend the conference. Perhaps Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook thought it would be best not to attend because Obama will also announce an executive action aimed at encouraging companies to share information across industry sectors. Obviously, it would be too dumb to attend, and get yourself dirty after spending so much resources distancing from the spy agencies.
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