Barack Obama chairs a meeting with biggest US tech firms to address concerns over NSA monitoring

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As the fallout from the Snowden revelations continues to rain down on the communications world, the President of the United States, Barack Obama personally chaired a summit on government surveillance and digital privacy that was attended by the bosses of the world’s largest technology firms.

US tech companies whose gaping back door to government intrusion and monitoring was exposed by the flood of leaked documents are reportedly very concerned about the effect of the scandal on their reputations and on their relationships with their customers. Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Google vice-president Vint Cerf and the boss of US telecoms network AT&T were all in attendance, but fears of a corporate / governmental stitch up were diminished by the presence of representatives of the Center for Democracy and Technology and Gigi Sohn, leader of campaign group Public Knowledge.

"This is one of a number of discussions the administration is having with experts and stakeholders in response to the president's directive to have a national dialogue about how to best protect privacy in a digital era, including how to respect privacy while defending our national security," an official told the influential Politico blog.

Private meetings have also been held, involving senior figures from both the administration, campaign groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy information Center and tech industry leaders from the Information Technology Industry Council, TechNet and Tech America, which represent a range of companies from defence contractors to the likes of Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

But the presence of the President himself at a meeting was telling. Industry giants fear that users will migrate away from US based tech networks for fear of surveillance. With opinion polls showing that despite the political class roundly condemning Snowden, the public broadly views him as a whistleblower and resents government snooping and with US / Russian relations breaking down over the issue, these are indeed critical times for the future of internet privacy.

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