President spent much of his week meeting with advisors, privacy advocates, and CEOs of top tech firms

Top tech firms like AT&T, Inc. (T), Facebook, Inc. (FB), Google Inc. (GOOG), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), and Apple, Inc. (AAPL) are reportedly irate at President Barack Obama's administration for forcing them into spying on their customers, a move that has triggered a backlash against these corporate giants of the tech world.  

I. Tech Leaders are Mad

Microsoft and Google -- President Obama's second and third largest campaign donors -- both gave almost a million dollars to Obama alone, and more to his party's campaign funds.  Apple, meanwhile personally guide the President's social media push, a final effort of late CEO and company cofounder Steven P. Jobs.  

President Obama also received heavy funding from large corporate defense firms, which donated 2-to-1 in his favor over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.  Perhaps that's why the President supported the U.S. National Security Agency's (NSA) bid to spy on nearly every single American, lavishing the defense contractors who donated to Obama with billions of dollars in the process.

Obama and Eric Schmidt
President Obama, pictured here with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt (center), met in secret with tech leaders this week. [Image Source: Geek Daily]

The tech industry -- particularly wireless carriers -- appeared in retrospect largely apathetic about this spying as long as it was kept out of the public eye and did not affect their business.  Now that it's out in the open, they're feeling far differently about it, and are taking their warning to the President, reminding him of the funding they backed him with.

On Tuesday representatives from the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), Microsoft's TechNet, and TechAmerica -- which represent Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and others were invited to a meeting with the President's top advisors.  Also invited were two of the top defenders of the Constitution on digital issues, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).  The assembled parties reportedly met with President Obama's chief of staff Denis McDonough and general counsel Kathy Ruemmler in the Roosevelt Room of The White House.

On Thursday -- shortly following reports that the NSA was demanding master encryption keys from tech firms -- Apple CEO Tim Cook, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Google computer scientist Vint Cerf, and other top tech leaders flew to Washington, D.C. for an impromptu chat with the President, focused on government surveillance.  Privacy/transparency advocates, such as Public Knowledge's chief, Gigi Sohn, also were in attendance.  The Thursday meeting was held under a strict veil of secrecy.

II. Democrats Turn on the President, Fearing Election Repercussions

Facing the threat of losing campaign funding -- and possibly elections -- support for the spying began to buckle to a greater degree within the President's own party this week. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) gave a speech at Harvard Law School on Thursday, remarking, "Trust and credibility depend on the appearance of fairness and accountability. My fear is that some of those agencies and institutions are in peril of losing it.  The purpose of the debate [on privacy] is to make sure we have both liberty and security."
The Senator is among the sponsors of a new bill designed to institute a new public defender to challenge requests for citizen data from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).  

The bill would remove FISA judges' rubber stamps, in theory, forcing them to justify the permissions they're giving intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The President is under pressure to pull the plug on his ubiquitous spying.
[Image Source: Reddit]

Today The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on an emergency press conference to be held by the President at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon to discuss privacy issues.  The President is expected to offer up fresh promises on transparency and accountability, based on his "friendly" discussion with his tech friends-cum-campaign donors.

Of course the President has made big transparency promises before so wariness is advised.

Sources: WSJ, Politico

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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