Obama Calls on Tech Industry to Allow Backdoor Access to Smartphones at SXSW

Echoing recent FBI sentiments, President Barack Obama is strongly urging Apple to open up backdoor access to their smartphones so that the government can reveal potentially critical information about criminal activity.

The president, speaking at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, urged the tech industry to work with the government so that smartphones don’t become “black boxes” with information stored on them that is inaccessible to government, even when a warrant has been issued.

“You cannot take an absolutist view on this. If your argument is strong encryption no matter what, and we can and should create black boxes, that I think does not strike the kind of balance we have lived with for 200, 300 years, and it’s fetishizing our phones above every other value,” he argued.

The issue of smartphone encryption came to the national spotlight after the FBI requested Apple comply with their request to provide backdoor access to an iPhone used by one of the assailants in December’s San Bernardino terror attacks.

The president specifically mentioned Edward Snowden, who has given a virtual keynote speech at SXSW on privacy rights. According to President Obama, advocates for protecting smartphones from this form of backdoor government access have complicated the issue of encryption by “elevating people’s suspicions” of government surveillance.

Obama expressed that he hoped his visit to the conference would encourage some in the tech industry to forego opportunities in Silicon Valley in favor of work in public service. After the healthcare.gov site failed in 2013, the president made it his goal to build a digital army with the best and brightest minds from the tech industry. He called the failure of the site “an example of the big and the bloated and frustrating” in government.

Obama has claimed that the advanced privacy that new technology allows make citizens more vulnerable to criminal activity. Although he has maintained that the government has always been able to search private property with a court-issued warrant, Apple CEO Tim Cook has firmly opposed the government’s request for cooperation.

Tom Ciccotta writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta.


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