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President Barack Obama signed an executive order this year that calls for private companies to work together to fight cyber threats – and to more readily share with the government the data they collect from their users.

The signing ceremony came at the end of a speech on data security that Obama gave at Stanford University. The audience was enthusiastic, but it was also missing something: With the exception of Apple, the leaders of the nation’s most powerful tech giants were absent. The CEOs of Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft all declined invitations to the cyber summit.

The absences were intended as a form of protest. While much of Obama’s speech at Stanford focused on an issue of key concern for the tech executives – data security – friction has developed between the Obama administration and the tech giants since 2013, when Edward Snowden revealed the extent of NSA spying on millions of Americans.

Larry Page (Google), Eric Schmidt (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo) and Satya Nadella (Microsoft) are part of a group of powerful tech companies that have publicly campaigned for the reform of government surveillance.

Their efforts were spurred by the revelations of whistleblower Snowden, who leaked top-secret information to journalists exposing sophisticated mass surveillance by the federal government. That included breaking into the email systems of companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

The Snowden revelations have pushed the tech companies to take steps to regain users’ trust. For example, Facebook added Tor capabilities, software that allows anonymous browsing of the Internet.

Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook, the only tech giant head to attend the Obama signing, used the event to reveal that Apple Pay was partnering with the federal government to allow its paperless payment system to be used for transactions such as entry into national parks. Apple Pay support will also be added to Social Security and veterans’ benefits cards.

But Cook alluded to the toil the NSA revelations have taken on Apple and other tech firms.

“Our customers’ trust means everything to us,” he said. “Privacy and security are built into every one of our products and services from their inception.”

Some content used from Mashable.

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