The revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “vastly overstated” the dangers U.S. citizens face from mass surveillance, President Barack Obama said Friday during his keynote speech at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
Discussing technology-related issues with Evan Smith, editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, President Obama argued that leaks from the former NSA contractor pointed only to excesses regarding foreign surveillance and not domestic.
If you are following encryption debate, please see this: https://t.co/P5CfOV1U1v.
— Denis McDonough (@Denis44) March 11, 2016
“The Snowden issue vastly overstated the dangers to U.S. citizens in terms of spying because the fact of the matter is… is that actually our intelligence agencies are pretty scrupulous about U.S. persons, people on U.S. soil,” Obama said. “What those disclosures did identify were excesses overseas with respect to people who are not in this country.”
President Obama went on to claim that such issues were fixed with numerous reforms and later analyzed by the Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
Less than 24 hours prior to the president’s speech, a report from The Washington Post detailed the Obama administration’s new policy of expanded data-sharing between the NSA and U.S. law enforcement agencies.
As noted by journalist Radley Balko, the “National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy.”
And how long until local police are given access to this data? Still think mass surveillance is about terrorism? pic.twitter.com/3zPuUC9IV2
— Mikael Thalen (@MikaelThalen) March 10, 2016
While also making mention of encryption and the current debate between the FBI and Apple, the President warned Americans against “fetishizing” their phones as well.
“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. And that can’t be the right answer,” he said.
According to Jenna McLaughlin, reporter for The Intercept, “Trying to come up with some solution that satisfies the desire for easy, ubiquitous law enforcement access while simultaneously upholding device security is what scientists call a ‘magic pony.’”
“Any hole for the government is a hole criminals and foreign adversaries could exploit, too.”