SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg came out swinging on revelations that Internet companies have been turning over users' information to national intelligence agencies.
"Frankly, I think the government blew it," Zuckerberg said during an onstage interview at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
His point: The U.S. government is not striking the right balance between protecting its citizens from terrorism and protecting their civil liberties.
"They blew it on communicating the balance of what they were going for with this," Zuckerberg said.
Facebook has been reeling from damaging revelations contained in documents leaked by former national intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that the giant social network and other Internet companies allowed government agencies to tap into users' information.
Zuckerberg denied giving the government direct access to its servers.
He said his No. 1 job is to protect his users' personal information (a comment that drew some skeptical reactions on social media).
Facebook on Monday joined a lawsuit pressing the Obama administration to allow it to disclose more details of its forced cooperation). Google and Microsoft filed suit in June.
Zuckerberg plans to travel to Washington, D.C., next week to meet with top Republican lawmakers. The discussion is expected to include NSA leaks and privacy issues.
Zuckerberg's remarks on the controversy surrounding the NSA leaks came at the tail end of an interview with technology blogger and investor Michael Arrington. Among the subjects Zuckerberg touched on: Bill Gates as a candidate for CEO of Microsoft ("When I was growing up, Bill Gates was my hero"), his new advocacy for immigration reform (Will it pass? "I'm an optimist," he said), his personal goal for the year (meet at least one person who does not work at Facebook each day) and Yahoo's new (and not well-liked) logo.
His best line came in response to the prospect of Twitter going public. Facebook, whose stock briefly hit an all-time high Wednesday, had the biggest technology offering on record in May 2012, but it went anything but smoothly.
"I'm kind of the person you would want to ask last about how to make a smooth IPO," Zuckerberg said.
The only bit of news from the interview: Instagram is coming to the Facebook Home lock screen.
Zuckerberg said he was surprised that Facebook Home has not yet caught on.
"I definitely think Home is slower in rolling out than I would have hoped," Zuckerberg said.
But, he added: "We are patient and still fully believe that this is something people will want over time."
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