Ken Roth in Quartz:
In an impassioned speech at the White House’s February 2015 cybersecurity summit, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook argued that in a world where “too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or express their opinion or love who they chose,” privacy can “make a difference between life and death.” In the two years since Edward Snowden’s first revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance excesses, Silicon Valley companies such as Apple, Google,Facebook, Microsoft and Cisco have used their influence in meetings with President Obama and concerted lobbying efforts to rein in mass surveillance in the United States.
To date, these efforts have found Silicon Valley allied with its users. But with companies under mounting pressure in places like Russia andChina to aid abusive government surveillance, the industry must decide whether to stand up for their most vulnerable users—those in countries where peaceful dissent can lead to serious reprisals—even if that may affect its business opportunities.
This month’s state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping is a major test. Xi’s visit opened with US tech executives in Seattle. Chinese officials like Internet czar Lu Wei will also join companies at the US-China Internet Industry Forum, an annual meeting organized by Microsoft and the Internet Society of China. Media reports indicate that executives from Apple, Facebook, Google, Uber and Cisco are invited.
These meetings come at a time when China is considering a raft of new laws—ostensibly about security and counter-terrorism—that would expand digital surveillance and censorship.