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FBI director: ‘There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America’

FBI Director James Comey, who has spent the last six months itching to get back into a public debate over the spread of encryption and mandated special backdoor government access to data, took to a spotlighted stage on Tuesday to pointedly criticize tech companies who offer default strong encryption on devices, saying he was preparing for the argument to extend into 2017 and beyond.

The encryption debate stormed onto center stage last year when the FBI tried to compel Apple to decrypt an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists. The debate has recently shrunk from public view as the 2016 election approaches, but it promises to return in full force after the votes are counted.

“I can’t resist talking about encryption and going dark,” he said Tuesday morning to the 2016 Symantec Government Symposium.

“Going dark”—Comey’s phrase for data rendered inaccessible due to encryption—is not a technical problem, he argued on Tuesday, but a business model problem: Tech companies are choosing a path of encryption for marketing, not security, he claimed.

Since Edward Snowden‘s 2013 leak of documents detailing NSA mass surveillance, Comey warned his work is becoming increasingly difficult.

Although he did name-check Snowden early in his talk, Comey conspicuously omitted the political shockwave over surveillance that the NSA contractor’s whistleblowing produced.


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