Barack Obama advocates middle ground in Apple vs FBI case

Barack Obama has weighed in on the Apple vs FBI debate, and has called for a middle ground between consumer privacy and national security.

Barack Obama used his keynote address at the SXSW (South By South West) conference to respond directly to questions around cyber-security in the light of Apple’s ongoing battle against the FBI.
Asked by moderator Evan Smith, Obama first quipped that while he “can’t comment on that specific case”, he supports a middle ground between consumer privacy – which Apple advocates violating even once would set a ‘dangerous precedent’ and national security, an interest to which the FBI is sworn to protect.
Read: Tim Cook blasts FBI request for iPhone access
Obama stated that one of the largest challenges to his administration is the desire for strong encryption to protect state secrets, while simultaneously having an equal desire to break encryption in certain cases.
“If it’s technologically possible to make an impenetrable device or system, where encryption is so strong that there’s no key“”there’s no door“”then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we solve or disrupt a terrorist plot? What mechanisms do we have to even do things like tax enforcement? If you can’t crack that at all, if government can’t get in, then everyone’s walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket, right?” The President went on to say.
Citing complaints from Apple CEO Tim Cook, as well as support from Google CEO Sundar Pichai as well as Facebook and Twitter, Obama echoed former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates‘ comments; stating that “You cannot take an absolutist view on this. If your view is strong encryption no matter what and we can and should create black boxes, that does not strike the balance that we’ve lived with for 200 or 300 years. And it’s fetishizing our phones above every other value. That can’t be the right answer.”
Read: Google‘s Sundar Pichai backs Apple over FBI requests
Obama outlined that the goal solution to the debate would be defined by robust encryption that could still be unlocked with a key, that would be “accessible by the smallest number of people possible for a subset of issues that we agree are important.” 
“We need the tech community to help us solve (this problem),” Obama said. “What will happen is, if everybody does to their respective corners“”if the tech community says, ‘either we have strong, perfect encryption, or it’s a Big Brother Orwellian world’“”what you’ll find is, after something really bad happens, the politics will swing. It’ll be sloppy, it’ll be rushed, and it’ll go through congress in ways we haven’t thought through. Then we’ll have something really dangerous.”
What are your thoughts on Barack Obama’s comments? Be sure to let us know where you sit in the debate in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA