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Obama warns over ‘absolutionist’ views in tech privacy debate

US President Barack Obama has weighed in on the tech privacy vs safety debate and urged tech companies to find a solution to the encryption row or risk losing out to political whims in the future.

Speaking during an interview at the annual SXSW event in Austin, TX., Obama warned against taking an ‘absolutist’ view by refusing to budge on the issue, which has seen a line drawn in the sand between Washington an Silicon Valley.

He said: “My conclusion so far is you cannot take an absolutist view own this. If your argument is strong encryption no matter what, and we can and should in fact create black boxes, that I think does not strike the kind of balance we have lived with for 200, 300 years.

“I suspect the answer is going to come down to how do we create a system where the encryption is as strong as possible, the key is as secure as possible, it is accessible by the smallest number of people possible, on a subset of issues we deem is important.”

See also: Apple vs FBI: Your questions asked

The president intimated companies like Apple are better off finding a compromise with governments sooner rather than later. If solutions are not achievable, Obama says, the alternative is a sloppy and rushed solution that’s reflective of the politics of the time.  

Obama, who is now in his final few months in office, went on to say (via 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’s thoughts come as Apple and the FBI prepare to face off in court during a hearing scheduled for March 22.

Apple is refusing to unlock an iPhone recovered from one of the San Bernardino shooters, despite a warrant from the Bureau.

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