Toward the end of this evening’s uneventful Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton made a very interesting aside about the ongoing struggle between spies, cops, and the contents of your smartphone.
The candidates all briefly discussed the question of whether law enforcement and the broader intelligence community should have a secret means of breaking the encryption that protects your privacy online, whether it’s and instant message or an email—a process known as a backdoor. Powerful entities like the FBI insist that encryption backdoors are vitally important when it comes to foiling terrorist plots that would rely on such protected channels, while privacy advocates and corporations like Apple say the privacy of ordinary customers outweighs any danger, and have so far refused to give the government its own set of keys.
But at one point, Clinton remarked that she “was very pleased that leaders of President Obama’s administration went out to Silicon Valley last week and began exactly this conversation about what we can do, consistent with privacy and security,” a reference to a closed-doors meeting at which encryption was reported to be a main topic. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell follows up by saying, as you can see in the video above, that government interests were “flatly turned down” at the meeting. Clinton replies, “that is not what I’ve heard... let me leave it at that.” This suggests that the likes of Facebook and Apple could be considering a compromise on how much they’re willing to protect your privacy, if at all.