Obama, tech executives met to discuss surveillance

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Barack Obama met with the CEOs of Apple Inc, AT&T Inc as well as other technology and privacy representatives on Thursday to discuss government surveillance in the wake of revelations about the programmes, the White House confirmed on Friday.

Google Inc computer scientist Vint Cerf and civil liberties leaders also participated in the meeting, along with Apple's Tim Cook and AT&T's Randall Stephenson, the White House said in confirming a report by Politico, which broke the news of the meeting.

"The meeting was part of the ongoing dialogue the president has called for on how to respect privacy while protecting national security in a digital era," a White House official said.

The session was not included on Mr Obama's daily public schedule for Thursday.

Groups invited to Thursday's meeting included Gigi Sohn, head of the privacy group Public Knowledge, as well as representatives from other similar organisations such as the Centre for Democracy and Technology, the White House confirmed.

Thursday's closed-door meeting followed another private session on Tuesday between Obama administration officials, industry lobbyists and privacy advocates.

The meetings follow revelations about the US government's secret surveillance tactics over emails and telephone data detailed in various media reports from information disclosed by fugitive former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Mr Obama is likely to face questions about the National Security Agency and the government's phone and electronic monitoring at his news conference later on Friday.

Since the programmes were revealed in June, the president has repeatedly said he would encourage a national conversation on the need for US surveillance while respecting people's right to privacy.

Critics have blasted the administration for the scope of the surveillance and blamed Congress for not carrying out proper oversight. Some lawmakers have vowed to push legislation calling for more accountability for the programmes.

Tuesday's session included representatives from tech lobbying groups Information Technology Industry Council, TechNet and TechAmerica as well as The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, the White House confirmed.