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Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 05:06 pm PT (08:06 pm ET)

Apple CEO and other Silicon Valley execs urge President Obama to sign off on surveillance reform

President Barack Obama met with top Silicon Valley executives on Tuesday, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, to discuss digital surveillance and HealthCare.gov Web portal, with the companies urging stricter rules be applied to government-sanctioned surveillance.

Obama

President Barack Obama discusses surveillance, HealthCare.gov with tech executives, including Zynga's Mark Pincus (left) and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer (middle). | Source: Associated Press


As noted on Monday, Silicon Valley big wigs visited the White House on Tuesday to sway the president toward more stringent oversight of the government's spying operations, reports Reuters. The meeting was initially intended to also cover the maligned HealthCare.gov website, but inside sources said the two hours were dedicated to surveillance.

President Obama and his staff are in the midst of weighing recommendations from an outside panel's review concerning the possible curtailing of certain government-sponsored surveillance activities. Specifically, the National Security Agency's digital snooping initiatives that essentially made tech firms partners — perhaps unwittingly — in the data dissemination.

In a statement following Tuesday's meeting, the White House said President Obama conveyed to the executives present that he "will consider their input as well as the input of other outside stakeholders as we finalize our review of signals intelligence programs," according to The Wall Street Journal. He went on to say that believes in a free and open Internet.

"We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the president our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform," the tech companies said in a joint statement.

Government contractor Edward Snowden set off a firestorm of public discontent when he leaked secret documents outlining the NSA's vast intelligence operation, a good portion of which had access to sensitive user data managed by top tech firms like Apple and Google. Once the snooping operation was out in the open, tech companies quickly went on the defensive, reassuring the public that sensitive customer information was safe.

Ealier in December, Apple joined a coalition of tech companies in signing an open letter to the president and Congress asking that a dedicated set of rules be applied to NSA and law enforcement data requests, as well as overall operational transparency.