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Cisco CEO warns Obama on surveillance

Letter to US president comes after evidence of NSA meddling in Cisco equipment emerges

Chambers: Our customers trust us to be able to deliver to their doorsteps products that meet the highest standards of integrity and security
Chambers: Our customers trust us to be able to deliver to their doorsteps products that meet the highest standards of integrity and security

Cisco CEO John Chambers has spoken out against United States government surveillance in a letter to President Barack Obama, the Financial Times reported yesterday.

In the letter, seen by the newspaper, Chambers warned that trust in US technology was eroding after evidence emerged that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had broken into Cisco equipment. Chambers called for “standards of conduct” to rein in surveillance, the FT wrote.

The letter was dated a day after pictures showing NSA staff opening Cisco gear emerged on the Internet. The implication was that the NSA has been intercepting deliveries between US technology manufacturers and foreign customers in order to conduct surveillance.

The allegations say that the NSA has been modifying foreign-bound IT equipment to keep tabs on surveillance targets. If the allegations are true, the US government would be conducting practices that it has warned the Chinese government undertakes with its own technology firms.

In his letter, Chambers warned that such practices would undermine the credibility of US-based technology companies, the FT reported.

“We simply cannot operate this way, our customers trust us to be able to deliver to their doorsteps products that meet the highest standards of integrity and security,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Cisco has already been wrestling with surveillance worries stemming from US government activities. Last week, as Cisco’s shares jumped 7%, Chambers noted that customers in emerging economies had delayed purchases due to concern over NSA surveillance.

Other firms, too, have spoken out against the US government’s attitudes towards surveillance, with Facebook and Google being particularly vocal about the need for reform. Apple has also called on the US government to rein in the NSA.