The encryption battle has been heating up, and President Obama has asked the public for some middle ground with the argument. Recently, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) tech-festival, the President told the crowd there should be some exchange of privacy for the protection of public safety within the encryption conversation.
But one key statement made was about citizens carrying wealth within their encrypted phones and tax enforcement. Obama stated to the crowd:
“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.”
Obama Speaks to SXSW Crowd About Privacy and Protection
As usual, bureaucrats say that they value privacy but feel criminal elements worldwide are far too dangerous to take lightly. The President says, “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.” Obama and many politicians seem to feel an accessible “back-door” for government is key to fighting terrorism and child pornography. These are the examples he uses in order to bolster the idea of protectionism.
With back-door access being talked about by many politicians, the world is watching a heated debate between government and tech-companies. Apple’s Tim Cook said his company would not allow a universal “back-door” for authorities.
We don’t know if Obama’s “Swiss Bank account in their pockets” comment was specifically directed towards Bitcoin, but we do know they want to access these devices. Obama is leaving soon, and a new candidate will soon take his office in November, and they will inevitably address encryption. Hillary Clinton has spoken to crowds about the subject saying she would like to see a “Manhattan-like project,” to address encryption concerns. Clinton states:
“I would hope that, given the extraordinary capacities that the tech community has and the legitimate needs and questions from law enforcement, that there could be a Manhattan-like project, something that would bring the government and the tech communities together to see they’re not adversaries, they’ve got to be partners,”
The President said in his speech that in the pre-smartphone world, governments had the right to obtain a warrant to search your personal goods, and this still exists today. He knows the contents of these phones contain “very personal information and very personal data.” However, he and many politicians are asking: where does society draw the line when it comes to encryption? The President also acknowledges that encryption is necessary to fend off malicious hackers but counters that “we’re going to have to make some decisions about how do we balance these respective risks?”
Many in the Bitcoin community over forums thought Obama’s statements were directed at the Bitcoin, and this news spread like wildfire over social media. One commenter on Reddit says to Obama,“quit crying and recognize there are limits to what the government can do.”
It is safe to say that most Bitcoin users are pro-encryption and feel his statements are absurd on all levels. Obama’s time in office is coming to a close, and we will watch a new President address the balance of privacy and criminal activity.
What do you think about Obama’s statements? Do you think he was speaking about Bitcoin? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of SXSW, and Pixbay