WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Tuesday discussed the troubled federal health care website, government surveillance and other issues with executives from Google, Twitter, Apple and several other leading technology companies.
The White House says the meeting was focused on the administration’s efforts to repair the HealthCare.gov website and reform government information technology, but National Security Agency surveillance programs also were on the agenda.
Some of the companies represented at the meeting, including Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook, have urged Obama to curb surveillance programs after the extent of the information the U.S. collects through their systems was revealed. Several companies are introducing more encryption technology to shield users’ data from government spies and other prying eyes.
The White House said afterward that Obama had the opportunity to hear directly from the CEOs as he and his aides study dozens of recommendations on government surveillance programs that a special task force delivered late last week, and as the White House finalizes its own internal review of these programs. The process is expected to conclude in January.
“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,” the White House said.
In a statement afterward that was issued through the White House, the technology companies said they appreciated the chance to share their concerns with Obama. They urged him to “move aggressively” on reform.
Chief executives from Netflix, Comcast, LinkedIn, Etsy and AT&T also attended the meeting.
Obama had some fun with Reed Hastings, the co-founder and CEO of Netflix, to underscore his own troubles with Congress.
“I was just wondering if Reed brought advance copies of ‘House of Cards,'” Obama asked, referring to the Netflix series about a hard-nosed politician played by actor Kevin Spacey. Hastings suggested Obama could make a cameo appearance on the show.
“I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” Obama said. “I was looking at Kevin Spacey. I was saying this guy is getting a lot of stuff done.”