During an event in Austin, Texas, President Obama argued that the federal government should have access to digital devices to make it easier to catch child pornographers, tax evaders and terrorists.
“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 that there is 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?” he said. “What mechanisms do we have available to even do simple things like tax enforcement because if in fact you can’t crack that at all, government can’t get in, then everybody is walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket.”
The comments come in the wake of Apple’s fight with the FBI over digital devices and privacy. The FBI wants access an iPhone used by one of the San Bernadino terrorists.
The FBI wants Apple to help them hack into the phone so they can learn more about the terrorist’s activities. Apple is arguing that creating such a backdoor would open a Pandora’s Box that could be used by the government to abuse privacy rights.
“Setting aside the specific case between the FBI and Apple, … we’re going to have to make some decisions about how do we balance these respective risks,” Obama said. “My conclusion so far is you cannot take an absolutist view.”
The president went on to say that when it comes to the balance between civil liberties and security that he falls on the civil liberties side.
However, this has not been evident in the President’s record on the issue.
The President defended the NSA’s mass domestic surveillance program, PRISM, in 2013.
“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience,” the President said at the time.
Benjamin Franklin has a far less compromising view on the balance between security and civil liberties.
“He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security,” the Founding Father once said.
[Reuters via Yahoo News] [The Guardian]