President Barack Obama sided with law enforcement in the debate pitting encryption and personal privacy against national security, arguing that authorities need access to data on electronic devices be
President Barack Obama sided with law enforcement in the debate pitting encryption and personal privacy against national security, arguing that authorities need access to data on electronic devices because the “dangers are real.”
Appearing at an annual tech festival in the Texas capital, Mr Obama delivered his most extensive comments to date on an issue being played out in federal court.
Apple, one of the world’s largest technology companies, is challenging the government’s request that it help the FBI access data on a cellphone that was used in the San Bernardino, California, attack that killed 14 people.
The issue has roiled the tech industry and divided Mr Obama’s advisers, but the President seemed to side on Friday with law enforcement despite also saying the matter would not be settled by adopting an “absolutist view”.
Mr Obama restated his commitment to strong encryption but also raised the question of how would authorities catch child pornographers or disrupt terrorist plots if smartphones and other electronic devices are designed in ways that keep the data on them locked away forever.
“My conclusion so far is that you cannot take an absolutist view on this,” Mr Obama said. So if your argument is strong encryption, no matter what, and we can and should, in fact, create black boxes, then that I think does not strike the kind of balance that we have lived with for 200, 300 years. And it’s fetishising our phones above every other value.And that can’t be the right answer,” he said.
Mr Obama was answering Evan Smith, editor in chief of The Texas Tribune, where he was asked, “where do you come down” on the privacy versus security debate.