Obama Draws Criticism Over Encryption Comments at SXSW

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Obama Draws Criticism Over Encryption Comments at SXSW

March 15, 2016

The President of the United States visited Austin this past week to talk technology and innovation at this year’s SXSW festival. This was a historic visit, marking the first time a sitting President attended the event. His appearance surely helped cement this legacy as the first ‘Tech President’ leading the government into a new age of technology, having started the United States Digital Service to upgrade the archaic technology that was in place when he first arrived in office.

However, for such a tech-savvy President, it is worrying to many that he does not seem to fully grasp the importance of strong encryption. Speaking to a crowd of over 2,000 technology buffs, Obama stated “If, technologically, 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, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we disrupt a terrorist plot?” His comments seemed to call for some sort of compromise. Approaching the topic in a diplomatic fashion, he stated firmly ‘”I would caution against taking an absolutist perspective on this”. Indirectly referring to the Apple vs. FBI case, President Obama added that if the government has no way into a smartphone “then everyone is walking around with a Swiss bank account in your pocket.”

The tech community was quick to react to his comments, with Congressman Darrell Issa stating “There’s just no way to create a special key for government that couldn’t also be taken advantage of by the Russians, the Chinese, or others who want access to the sensitive information we all carry in our pockets everyday.” Matt Blaze, a computer science professor and cryptography researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, chimed in on the controversy as well, stating that it was a waste of time to assume people will not flock to foreign-made encrypted products: “trying to put a mandate on encryption software is really pretty hopeless, it’s not going to prevent people from using open source software or foreign-made software, even in the United States.”

At Golden Frog we believe in the importance of strong, unbreakable encryption. That’s why we create products like VyprVPN to help increase user security online. In fact, we hosted a SXSW panel on encryption this year featuring speakers such as Congressman Will Hurd, who weighed in on the issue of government overreach: “Any law enforcement agency doesn’t have the right to tell a company what to do. Period.”

As the encryption battle continues we’ll be sure to keep on our eyes on the complex subject at hand, and we will continue to stand with Apple in their fight against the FBI.

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