Watergate 'peanuts' compared to NSA spying: McNealy

Friday, 7 Feb 2014 | 1:02 PM ET
Watergate 'peanuts' compared to NSA: McNealy
Friday, 7 Feb 2014 | 7:26 AM ET
Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, weighs in on the U.S. surveillance controversy.

From tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone to snooping into citizens' email, the breadth of information collected by the National Security Agency has caused alarm, including among executives of technology and other corporate giants.

Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems (acquired by Oracle in 2010), expressed serious concerns about the depth of federal surveillance in an interview on CNBC on Friday.

"I go back to Watergate and that's peanuts compared to what it feels like is going on in terms of stuff happening and lack of transparency," he said. "And the other thing that's peanuts ... compared to now is how much more the government is in our lives."

(Read more: Obama to announce surveillance overhaul)

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden released documents last June that showed that Verizon had to provide data from millions of phone calls to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the NSA.

In a speech last month, President Barack Obama said the government would end spying on senior officials in nations friendly to the United States. Although he has not decided which entity will retain the phone data, subsequent database searches would require judicial findings, the president said.

(Read more: UK, US under fire for Angry Birds spy claims)

The NSA's surveillance program has affected corporations abroad. AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in an interview with CNBC that "there have been competitive impacts overseas," though he would not elaborate.

(Read more: AT&T chairman condemns Russian anti-gay policies)

"We've had legitimate competitive losses as a result of this, where companies have made some decisions based on [NSA surveillance], and it's one area we think is important to bring clarity to this situation—what is being done and what is not being done," he said.

Tens of thousands of people have pledged to support a day of protest against the NSA surveillance programs scheduled for Tuesday, PC World reported Thursday.

—By Evelyn Cheng, special to CNBC

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