The leaders of Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook, and other tech giants filed into the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Opposite them was the top brass of the Obama administration, including President Obama himself. It was a few days before Christmas 2013. The tech execs had come to convince the government to roll back its mass surveillance regime that had recently been revealed thanks to a whistleblower named Edward Snowden.
The two sides, tech and government, went back and forth, civil but tense. At one point, Obama said that as angry and concerned as Americans were about the NSA’s practices, the tech companies in the room collected far more information on people than the government did. “I have a suspicion,” Obama told the executives,