[Ed. – Yes, he really said this.]
In light of the brewing war between Apple and the FBI, President Barack Obama cautioned in his keynote at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival that no one should take an absolutist position on the debate between privacy and public safety.
His key argument centered on the trade-offs Americans already make to guarantee their safety and well-being, whether it’s going through TSA security screening at airports — something Obama joked that he hadn’t done in awhile but heard is awful — or being searched at a drunk-driving stop.
So now we have two values that we say are important. And the question we now have to ask technologically is if it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong that there is no key, there is no door at all. Then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we solve or disrupt a terrorist plot? What mechanisms do we have available to do even simple things like tax enforcement? If in fact you can’t crack that all, if the government can’t get in, then everybody is walking around with a Swiss Bank account in their pocket. There has to be some concession to the need to be able to get into that information somehow.