Internet users need to know when the government is watching: Reid Hoffman

Yahoo Finance

Reid Hoffman, the founder and chairman of LinkedIn (LNKD), the professional networking site, is a big proponent of trust--between managers and employees and between his company and its customers. So naturally he's not a fan of the government's NSA surveillance program.

He tells Yahoo Finance's Jeff Macke in the video above that LinkedIn pushes back when the government accesses a member's files without disclosing that access publicly. Hoffman says the company tells the government of its obligation to be "absolutely transparent" with customers about "how the data is being used." And it requests that the government allow it to "disclose as much about these requests as we can."

LinkedIn is in a better position than other tech companies when it comes to government surveillance because, says Hoffman, "most of the information people put on LinkedIn is stuff they actually want to be public... They want to be able to be found for a consulting opportunity, a job or expertise."

And LinkedIn apparently also receives fewer requests from the government for customers' information. It reported 97 requests compared to tens of thousands for Facebook (FB), Microsoft (MSFT), and Yahoo (YHOO).

LinkedIn, along with Google (GOOG), Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook, has been pushing for the right to report government data requests, but the government has responded with heavily-redacted versions of the government's submissions to the court that are essentially unreadable.

Hoffman says "some zones" of privacy are needed so that people know when they're being watched by the government and when they're not. He cites the example of the closed circuit system of cameras in London, which Londoners are well aware of.

"You know that when you're out in these public spaces there are actually cameras in order to have public safety... but when they get home their home is not surveilled," says Hoffman. "You need essentially a clear concept when you're participating online where it's home and where it is out in the public space."

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