Obama on Privacy: Protecting Americans While "Making Sure Government Is Not Abusing Its Capabilities Is Hard"

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: this summit is an example of what we need more of -- all of us working together to do what none of us can achieve alone. And it is difficult. Some of the challenges I’ve described today have defied solutions for years. And I want to say very clearly that, as somebody who is a former constitutional law teacher, and somebody who deeply values his privacy and his family’s privacy -- although I chose the wrong job for that -- (laughter) -- but will be a private citizen again, and cares deeply about this -- I have to tell you that grappling with how government protects the American people from adverse events while, at the same time, making sure that government itself is not abusing its capabilities is hard.

The cyber world is sort of the wild, wild West. And to some degree, we're asked to be the sheriff. When something like Sony happens, people want to know what can government do about this. If information is being shared by terrorists in the cyber world and an attack happens, people want to know are there ways of stopping that from happening. By necessity, that means government has its own significant capabilities in the cyber world. But then people, rightly, ask, well, what safeguards do we have against government intruding on our own privacy? And it's hard, and it constantly evolves because the technology so often outstrips whatever rules and structures and standards have been put in place, which means that government has to be constantly self-critical and we have to be able to have an open debate about it.

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