During a speech at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference, President Barack Obama addressed the Apple encryption debate by saying that too much encryption could prevent the government from doing its job.
“If technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system, where the encryption is so strong there is no key or no door, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer?” he said.
He also pointed to cases like tax evasion, saying, “If the government can’t get in, then everyone is walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket.”
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The comments came in response to a question about the ongoing feud between Apple and the FBI over whether or not Apple should be required to help the FBI bypass security measures on a phone used by terrorists. Obama warned that the issue of privacy should not be boiled down to black-and-white perspectives.
“You cannot take an absolutist view on this,” he said. “Either we have strong perfect encryption or it’s Big Brother.”
“All of us value our privacy, and this is a society that is built on a Constitution and a Bill of Rights and a skepticism of government intrusion,” he continued. “Technology is evolving so rapidly, new questions are being asked. There are really real reasons that government shouldn’t be able to rifle through everybody’s phone willy nilly.”
“We make the concession because we recognize its important. We do have to make sure that given the power of the internet that it is [probable cause] and that there is constraint. But we’re going to need the tech community to help us solve it.”