FBI Director James Comey said “there is no such thing as absolute privacy in America,” during a cybersecurity conference at Boston College Wednesday.
His comments come after Wikileaks dumped a trove of CIA documents revealing various hacking tools the agency reportedly uses to gather data and intelligence, including turning smart devices, such as phones and TV’s, into surveillance devices. The data also revealed a special hacking division inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence dedicated to developing and gathering flaws to manipulate iOS and Android devices.
Although Comey did not specifically mention Wikileaks’ recent release of alleged CIA documents, he did emphasize that absolute privacy is non-existent.
“We all value privacy. We all value security. We should never have to sacrifice one for the other,” said Comey after discussing the spike of encryption use since NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the agency’s spying practices in 2013.
“Our founders struck a bargain that is at the center of this amazing country of ours and has been for over two centuries,” adding that the use of encryption “shatters” that bargain.
“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America, there is no place outside of judicial reach,” said Comey.
Comey added: “Even our communications with our spouses, with our clergy members, with our attorneys are not absolutely private in America. In appropriate circumstances, a judge can compel any one of us to testify in court about those very private communications.”
Comey said there is “something seductive” of absolute privacy and said Americans “have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes, in our cars, in our devices.”
“It is a vital part of being an American. The government cannot invade our privacy without good reason, reviewable in court,” said the FBI director.
In the conference, Comey said in the last few months of 2016, the FBI lawfully obtained 2,800 devices from criminal, terrorism and counterintelligence investigations. Out of those devices the department was unable to open almost half of them, 43 percent.
However, Comey said he loved privacy, revealing that he had a private Instagram account.
“I don’t want anybody looking at my pictures,” said Comey who revealed he had a mere nine followers to his account (only for immediate family members who can see pictures of his travels).
Snowden responded to Comey’s remarks in a tweet saying, “The FBI Director is bothered by the idea you might see his Insta, but his agency demands your data without warrants.”
Comey Plans To Complete His Term, Even After Controversies
Comey’s appearance comes after he was accused of costing Hillary Clinton the presidential win last November by making a last-minute announcement about her emails. His comments also come after President Donald Trump accused, without having any proof, President Barack Obama of wiretapping phones at Trump Tower.
Comey said he plans to stay on as FBI director, which is a 10-year term. Comey was appointed by President Obama in 2013 and has more than half of his term left.
“You’re stuck with me for about another six-and-a-half years,” he said.