Obama: 'Absolutist' views on encryption don't work

President Barack Obama
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama cautioned Friday against "absolutist" views on public safety and data security amid an encryption dispute between Apple and the Justice Department.

During the keynote address at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, Obama declined to comment on the specific case. Apple is currently fighting a court order to help authorities access data on an iPhone used by one of the shooters in last year's San Bernardino, California, attack, which left 14 people dead.

Obama said the government and technology companies need to strike a reasonable balance between privacy and security. He argued for "strong encryption," but warned against "fetishizing our phones."

"There has to be some concession to the need to get into that information somehow," Obama said, adding that he is "way on the civil liberties side of this thing."

The Apple case intensified Thursday, when the DOJ filed a brief calling Apple's rhetoric "false" and accusing the company of "deliberately" raising technological barriers that now impede the investigation. An Apple executive responded by calling the DOJ "desperate," saying the brief "reads like an indictment."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Obama's remarks.