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In State of the Union Address, President Obama Ducks Encryption Debate

His heart's not really in it.

Evan Vucci / Getty

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama talked about employing tech to fight climate change and funding computer science in schools, plus a few other nods to the tech industry.

Conspicuously absent: Encryption and his administration’s fraught relationship with Silicon Valley over the industry’s consumer privacy policies.

Since the Paris terror attacks and mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., late last year, the federal government and Silicon Valley have been at odds over the issue of user data encryption. The Obama administration says that tech companies need to allow the government access to user information, though industry and cyber security experts pretty much universally say this is a bad idea.

President Obama used to think (and probably still does) it was a bad idea, too: He chose not to push a bill through Congress forcing tech companies to decrypt data back in October, prior to Paris and San Bernardino. After those attacks, law enforcement agencies and politicians from the center-left to the far-right started loudly yelling for Silicon Valley to enable back doors.

The White House’s attitude has shifted a bit in that time, becoming more critical of tech industry encryption practices as his administration continues trying to pierce foreign terror cells. Silicon Valley, which is unlikely to bend on this issue, still wants to work with the government in combating terror online; Silicon Valley executives including Apple CEO Tim Cook met with many senior government officials for an anti-ISIS Internet strategy summit last Friday, discussing other ways they could collaborate.

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