Mark Zuckerberg shining spotlight on science, talks NSA surveillance

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is taking on a variety of causes beyond his company.

Zuckerberg sat down with CBS News' Ben Tracy Thursday night, the same night as the Breakthrough Prizes, which honor scientists and their medical research.

Each one is worth $3 million - the richest prize in science. They are funded by titans of tech, including Google founder Sergey Brin and Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg said the goal of the prizes is to "make the point that scientists are heroes and should be recognized as heroes in our society."

With Facebook stock doubling recently, Forbes estimates the 29-year-old's net worth is now $24 billion. In 2012, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were the second biggest charitable givers in the United States, donating $498.8 million. Only Warren Buffett gave away more money, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The face of Facebook is increasingly swapping his high-profile hoodie for a suit and tie, launching a political advocacy group pushing for immigration reform.

Zuckerberg said, "It's too big of a moral issue for our country, so I'm just gonna put my neck out there and push for it because I think it's the right thing to do."

Facebook has been stung by criticism that the National Security Agency has accessed its users' data, so this week Zuckerberg joined other tech firms in writing an open letter to lawmakers, calling for the U.S. to "take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law."

Zuckerberg said, "The government has really blown it on this because they haven't done a good job of explaining the data that they're trying to ask for and how they're using it."

Tracy remarked, "You've had a lot of experience at Facebook with users complaining about how their data might be used."

Zuckerberg said, "People care immensely about their data and their content and, you know, want to make sure that it's shared with only the people that they want it to be shared with, and at Facebook we've tried to be really good stewards of that."

By shining the spotlight on science, Zuckerberg is showing that Facebook is not his only passion and that he's willing to put his considerable money where his mouth is.

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