Box's Aaron Levie: We haven't received any NSA requests

With Box heading toward an IPO, the normally gregarious CEO can't say much about anything. But when it comes to the topic of government surveillance and what that might mean for the future of the Internet, he offers a few tidbits.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

Box CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie at Box Dev 2014. Nick Statt/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- The enterprise storage company Box is headed toward an initial public offering, so there are certain things CEO Aaron Levie can't talk about in the quiet period leading up to the company's stock market debut. But on Thursday, there was one topic the normally outspoken CEO was happy to remark on: the National Security Agency.

"We haven't received any NSA requests," said Levie, speaking at the Demo Enterprise conference here. Although he added that the company has in the past received subpoenas from other places.

Because of the nature of Box's business, dealing mostly with companies, he said snooping from the government agency hasn't been a problem.

Tech companies have been on the defensive about privacy and security since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents to the press last year about the agency's spying tactics. Silicon Valley giants have since then released regular transparency reports that detail information requests made by the federal government.

In February, Dropbox -- one of Box's chief rivals -- updated its privacy policy to outline its approach to government data requests, including a pledge to "fight blanket requests."

But just because Box hasn't gotten any NSA requests, that doesn't mean he's not concerned. "I care deeply about [the issue] philosophically," he said. His biggest concern is the balkanization of the Web and its services. As a cloud provider, he said Box would have to set up the business differently from country to country, as different regions do different things to respond to surveillance. "You don't want to be in an arms race with your own government, from a technology standpoint," he said.

Levie isn't the only tech CEO to share that belief. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer reportedly brought up that concern when she and a confab of other tech leaders met with President Obama at the White House in December.

For today, Levie stuck mostly to general topics during his talk, dodging questions from his interlocutor, former TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld, about specifics of the business, like revenue or Levie's ownership stake in the company. Levie was expectedly mum, citing rules from the US Securities and Exchange commission that limit what information he can share before his company goes public.