Obama: 'Absolutist' view won't solve encryption debate
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — President Barack Obama said Friday that the encryption versus national security debate, being played out in Apple's legal fight against the federal government, won't be settled by taking an "absolutist view."
Addressing an audience of tech enthusiasts, Obama said both values are important.
He restated his commitment to strong encryption, but also asked how government will catch child pornographers or disrupt terrorist plots if smartphones and other electronic devices are made so that law enforcement can't access the data stored on them.
"My conclusion, so far, is you cannot take an absolutist view on this," Obama said at the South by Southwest Interactive festival.
During a question-and-answer session with Evan Smith, CEO and editor in chief of The Texas Tribune, Obama was asked "where do you come down" on the question of balancing law enforcement's needs with the right to privacy.
The president was not asked to comment on the litigation between Apple and the FBI, and he said he couldn't discuss specifics.
Obama said government shouldn't be able to "just willy nilly" get into smartphones that are full of very personal data. But at the same time, while asserting he's "way on the civil liberties side," he said "there has to be some concession" to be able to get to the information in certain cases.
Apple and the federal government are embroiled in a legal fight over Apple's refusal to help the FBI access an iPhone used in last year's attack San Bernardino, California. The FBI wants Apple to create a program specifically for that particular phone to help it get to the data, but Apple has refused, saying to do so would set a terrible precedent.
Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: ttp://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap