Zuckerberg says US 'really blew it' on surveillance programs

Facebook CEO criticizes government's data collection programs as lacking transparency.

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Facebook CEP Mark Zuckerberg on ABC's "This Week." Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET

Mark Zuckerberg believes the United States "really blew it" on surveillance programs that have drawn intense criticism as lacking respect for citizens' privacy.

"I think that these things are always a balance, in terms of doing the right things and also being clear and telling people about what you're doing," the Facebook chief executive said in an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that touched on a range of issues. "I think the government really blew it on this one. And I honestly think that they're continuing to blow it in some ways and I hope that they become more transparent in that part of it."

The National Security Agency's tactics in vacuuming up phone, e-mail, and other Internet communications have come under scrutiny since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began releasing classified documents this year about the agency's activities.

After several Internet companies were reported to have given the US government direct access to its servers, Zuckerberg issued a categorical denial in June saying that Facebook "ha[s] never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively."

On a separate note, Zuckerberg was sympathetic of the challenges faced by HealthCare.gov, the government-run online health insurance marketplace that has been plagued by technical glitches.

"You know, sometimes stuff doesn't work when you want it to," he said. "We've certainly had plenty of mistakes and things that haven't worked the way that we want to. The right thing here is just to keep on focusing on building the service that you think is right in the long term."

Zuckerberg, who has also been campaigning for changes to US immigration law, also said "there are a lot of misconceptions" regarding the legality of 11 million undocumented persons in the country.

"A lot of them came here because they just want to work," said Zuckerberg, who recently launched a new political action group, FWD.us, that focuses in part on expanding the H-1B visa program. "They want to help out their families and they want to contribute. We definitely should make it so that they can, so that there's a path for them to come into the country legally as well."