President Obama says smartphones cannot be ‘black boxes’; taking ‘absolutist view’ will not work

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Speaking to Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith at SXSW, President Obama said that smartphones cannot be allowed to be “black boxes” that are not accessible by the government. He said that tech companies should work with the government to solve such issues, instead of leaving the matter for Congress to solve.

Obama further said that one cannot take an “absolutist view” on this issue, and that having strong encryption on your phone “no matter what” does not “strike the kind of balance we have lived with for 200,300 years.” After all, there are many places where American citizens have created a balance by trading their privacy for better security, like by allowing law agencies to use of warrants to search homes etc.

“The question we now have to ask is, if technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system, where the encryption is so strong there’s no key, there’s no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we solve or disrupt a terrorist plot?” Obama said. “If in fact you can’t crack that at all, government can’t get in, then everybody’s walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket.”

President Obama also said that leaving this matter with Congress and other lawmakers will not be the right thing to do, as the end result would be “sloppy and rushed and it will go through Congress in ways that have not been thought through.”

The president further adds that a compromise between Apple and the government is definitely possible, and the two just need to figure out a way to make sure that the encryption and the key to unlock it remains as strong as possible, with access to the latter being given to a very few number of people.

Apple has received a lot of flak from government agencies for not following the court order and its fight against the FBI. The Department of Justice even accused Apple of being “false” and “corrosive” in its motion.

[Via Bloomberg]

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