Spoken Like a Man Who Doesn’t Own a Smartphone

Spoken Like a Man Who Doesn’t Own a Smartphone

'It's fetishizing our phones above every other value'

So said President Obama in an interview at South by Southwest today when asked about our ability to encrypt our smartphones in such a way that national security and law enforcement agencies may be unable to decrypt them. And it's the sort of thing a man who doesn't own a smartphone would say. I mean, the man's the president of the United States, of course he doesn't.

But those of who do know what it's like to have a smartphone know that it's more than just a gadget or tool. It often contains our most personal information, our financial information, health and medical information, personal journals, and more. It's become an extension of our own brains. Having the encryption that safeguards them from the prying eyes of criminals, of foreign nations, of our own government isn't mere fetishization. It's the very heart of privacy.

This isn't a Democrat/Republican issue nor is it a conservative/liberal issue.

Obama said, “The question we now have to ask is if technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong there’s no key, there’s no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we disrupt a terrorist plot?”

With police work. With good intelligence. With hard work. Because not once, ever, has everything depended on something inside the locked box. Because every sicko porn freak and every hell-bent terrorist has been a human being working with other human beings and they don't work exclusively through digital encryption, but also through human interaction and that's where the police work comes in. Sure, it'd be easier to hack the phones, but at what price?

Should we compromise the liberty of every American to capture hypothetical terrorists? Should we give up our liberty and privacy for the sake of some hypothetical security? Because if we do, we'll just end up with neither.