Larry Ellison: Some government surveillance is 'essential' to fight terror

Ellison also weighed in on his friendship with Steve Jobs and Oracle's litigation against Google in a televised interview

Some level of government surveillance is "essential" if the nation is to minimize the incidence of terrorist strikes like the Boston Marathon bombing, according to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

In a rare interview with CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose that was broadcast Tuesday, Ellison took on the topic of government snooping following the revelations of the widespread US government data-collection programs which were exposed earlier this year by former US government contractor Edward Snowden.

Private information has been collected for a long time by the likes of credit card companies, Ellison said.

But domestic spying would go too far "if the government used it for political targeting," with members of political parties using it to investigate "people on the other side of the aisle," said Ellison, who worked on a database project for the Central Intelligence Agency early in his career, before founding Oracle.

In any event, the public isn't powerless against government policies, he told Rose Tuesday. "The great thing is, we live in a democracy. If we don't like what the [National Security Agency] is doing we can just get rid of the government and put in a different government."

Ellison also discussed his friendship with the late Steve Jobs, saying that Apple "will not be nearly so successful" now that Jobs is gone.

"He was brilliant," said Ellison, who was close friends with Jobs. "He was our Edison. He was our Picasso. He was an incredible inventor."

"We saw Apple with Steve Jobs," Ellison added, raising a hand into the air. "We saw Apple without Steve Jobs," he said, lowering his hand. "He's irreplaceable."

However, Ellison said he liked current Apple CEO Tim Cook. "I'm not shorting Apple."

Ellison also described the time he spent with Jobs in the latter's final days.

"I would go over there all the time," he said. "We'd always go for walks, and the walks just kept getting shorter."

"Until at the end, we just walked around the block, four blocks, something like that," Ellison added. "You just watched him getting weaker. And this was the strongest guy I ever met, and after seven years the cancer just wore him out. He was tired of the pain. He pulled off the meds on a Saturday or Sunday and the following Wednesday he was gone."

Ellison and Rose's discussion included the legal dispute between Oracle and Google over the Android OS. Oracle sued Google in 2010, claiming Android infringed on patents and copyrights Oracle holds on the Java programming language. It lost the case but is appealing.

"I think what they did was evil," Ellison said of Google, alluding to the company's "don't be evil" slogan. "The only problem I have is with the Google guys. [CEO Larry Page] specifically. He makes the decisions over there. He runs that company."

Ellison stopped short of calling Page himself evil.

"I think he slipped up this one time," Ellison said.

CBS will broadcast more of Rose's interview with Ellison on Wednesday.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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