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Government Can't Let Smartphones Be `Black Boxes,' Obama Says

  • Obama advises tech industry to compromise before Congress acts
  • President appears at South by Southwest as FBI sues Apple Inc.
U.S. President Barack Obama.

U.S. President Barack Obama.

Photographer: Rod Lamkey/Bloomberg
Updated on

President Barack Obama said Friday that smartphones -- like the iPhone the FBI is trying to force Apple Inc. to help it hack -- can’t be allowed to be "black boxes," inaccessible to the government. The technology industry, he said, should work with the government instead of leaving the issue to Congress.

"You cannot take an absolutist view on this," Obama said at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. "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."