At SXSW, President Obama Gently Pushes Apple on Encryption

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President Barack Obama - 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival
President Obama, at South by Southwest earlier Friday.Photo: Neilson Barnard/2016 Getty Images

Delivering a keynote address at South by Southwest Friday, President Obama said he couldn’t discuss the ongoing battle between Apple and the FBI over access to the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. But the president did speak in general terms about the topic of privacy, and took a stand against pro-Apple “absolutism.” Said Obama, via Chris Welch of the Verge: “What will happen is, if everybody goes to their respective corners, and the tech community says, ‘either we have strong perfect encryption or else it’s Big Brother and an Orwellian world,’ what you’ll find is that after something really bad happens, the politics of this will swing and it will become sloppy and rushed and it will go through Congress in ways that are dangerous and not thought through.”

Obama also spoke about the balance of privacy and security. Via TechCrunch: "Technology is evolving so rapidly that new questions are being asked, and I am of the view that there are very real reasons why we want to make sure the government can not just willy-nilly get into everyone’s iPhones or smartphones that are full of very personal information or very personal data.”