Warren Buffett says ‘privacy has its limits’ in Apple vs. U.S. government case

“Billionaire Warren Buffett declined to take sides in Apple’s tussle with the FBI over an iPhone related to the San Bernardino mass shooting,” Don Reisinger reports for Fortune. “But he said that ‘privacy has its limits.'”

“In an interview on CNBC on Monday, Buffett said that ‘we live in a very, very, very dangerous world,’ adding that if law-enforcement officials hear of a ‘major’ threat that is credible and could cause a catastrophe, ‘I think that in that case, security trumps privacy,'” Reisinger reports. “Buffett did, however, hedge his comments a bit, saying that if the issue is neither major nor one of national security, ‘then privacy trumps security.'”

MacDailyNews Take: Who gets to define “major?”

“‘But in the end, if there’s something major, something that the Attorney General or the head of the FBI would be willing to sign and go to a judge on and say ‘we need this information and we need it now,’ I’d be willing to trust that official to behave in a proper manner,’ he said, suggesting that he might support the FBI in this case,” Reisinger reports. “But before he was done, Buffett made a few things clear: He’s not a technologist, he doesn’t necessarily understand all facets of the argument, and perhaps most importantly, he holds Apple’s CEO in high regard. ‘I admire Tim Cook enormously,’ Buffett said. ‘I respect him as much as any CEO in the country.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Stick to your knitting, Warren.

Again, encryption is either on or off. This is a binary issue. There is no in-between. You either have encryption or you do not.

There have been people that suggest that we should have a back door. But the reality is if you put a back door in, that back door’s for everybody, for good guys and bad guys. — Apple CEO Tim Cook, December 2015

This is not about this phone. This is about the future. And so I do see it as a precedent that should not be done in this country or in any country. This is about civil liberties and is about people’s abilities to protect themselves. If we take encryption away… the only people that would be affected are the good people, not the bad people. Apple doesn’t own encryption. Encryption is readily available in every country in the world, as a matter of fact, the U.S. government sponsors and funs encryption in many cases. And so, if we limit it in some way, the people that we’ll hurt are the good people, not the bad people; they will find it anyway. — Apple CEO Tim Cook, February 2016

Oppose government overreach.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Manhattan D.A. claims Apple is crippling investigations across the country – February 29, 2016
Apple CEO Cook decried Obama’s ‘lack of leadership’ on encryption during a closed-door meeting last month – February 29, 2016
Apple’s top lawyer: U.S. government order weakens security for all iPhones – February 29, 2016
Apple CEO Cook decried Obama’s ‘lack of leadership’ on encryption during a closed-door meeting last month – February 29, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook can probably defy the US government all he wants and not go to jail – February 29, 2016
Apple CEO Cook picks up where Snowden left off in privacy debate – February 29, 2016
Obama administration set to expand sharing of data that N.S.A. intercepts – February 28, 2016
If Apple loses, your home could be the next thing that’s unlocked: Access to your security cameras would be just a judge order away – February 28, 2016
The Apple vs. FBI fight is about something more basic than software and laws – February 28, 2016
Apple privacy battle with Washington looms as watershed moment – February 26, 2016
Apple’s lawyer: If we lose, it will lead to a ‘police state’ – February 26, 2016
Apple: The law already exists that protects us from U.S. government demands to hack iPhone – February 26, 2016

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]


  1. Warren, go back to playing bridge with Bill Gates. You two are both overly wealthy blowhards.

    Whenever some of the richest people in the world say government must act, it usually also means that us plebs need to bend over and get ready to be shafted.

  2. The real test will come when they outlaw personal encryption and devices that they cannot bypass. The U.S. Government is exactly that. A government. It is not your friend. It has long since forgotten that it is supposed to represent us, not itself. We should no more trust them than they trust foreign powers. We should show them no more respect than they’ve shown us. They have one primary power. That power is over criminals. When they need more control over us, they simply turn more of our everyday lives into criminal activity. Witness the efforts to literally criminalize iPhones in NY and CA, and the demand that Apple and others facilitate their search for criminal activity. This is not about one phone.

    To protect our privacy, rights, and freedom, from the potential for even more government intrusion, every attempt by authorities to gain more access to our digital profiles should not only be met with intense scrutiny and examined exhaustively for constitutionality but regarded at least as important as any other issue of national security no matter what the hell Warren Buffet says.

    Herein lies the importance of the Constitution, and why bending it only hurts us and helps them.

    1. One might suppose that government snoops (or other tyoes) might take a keen interest in the Internet of Things. Nest thermostats and Samsung fridges come to mind. Such data-collecting appliances could provide a wealth of information about criminals’ personal habits that could prove even more useful than the footprints left by their mobile devices. The fridge tells you what foods Don Corlione orders and the thermostat tells you when he is home at the villa. So simple to hack the order for oranges, and you’ved saved the fees you used to pay informants. Another example of automation displacing domestic labour!

  3. We The People run the country Mr. Buffett. If we can lock up our private data in a box no one but ourselves can open, then that is our choice. The government has NO authority to abridge our privacy decisions, EVER.

    As per the usual disrespectful attitude of modern biznizziz, We The People are treated as DEFAULT CRIMINALS. So the government better force us to be ready to show them the goods, since we ARE going to commit crimes. I say FSCK that attitude! We are ALL innocent until proven guilty and we ALL control our own privacy. Butt out Warren.

    1. Well… not to disagree with you, but the Constitution doesn’t say anything about privacy. One of the Kennedys co-authored a book about that very thing.

      However, and I’m paraphrasing here, the Constitution does say people have (unnamed, unmentioned) rights beyond those rights reserved for the federal government or states. A case for right to privacy could be construed to be one of those.

      1. it does, though. The 4th Amendment strongly states that the government can’t pry into a person’s life without a good reason:
        “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      2. Language is a matter of symbols to represent meaning. The word ‘privacy’ is consistently applied to the rights designated in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, which reads as follows:

        The Fourth Amendment To The US Constitution

        “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

        Call it ‘Personal Security’ if you like. There are NO limits of any kind placed upon ‘Personal Security’ in the US Constitution. If a person chooses to encrypt all their data such that on one but the owner can decrypt and read that data, that is their right. It’s that simple. Clearly, what’s being pushed for by the FBI, DOJ etc. is a LIMIT on ‘Personal Security’. They have NO right to ask, nor does any citizen have any obligation to compromise their ‘Personal Security’.

        Note that I am suitably NOT addressing the situation of crimes committed. If a person’s ‘Personal Security’ possessions are legally obtained, AT THAT TIME government law enforcement has the right to ATTEMPT to obtain all relevant data. If they can’t, because the suspect refuses to give up the key to that data, or they’re dead (as in this case) and can’t provide the key, tough luck. Law enforcement must find other evidence.

  4. Yes Warren, we do live in a very, very, dangerous world and it will be a whole lot more dangerous if there are people out there who can track and surveil our children and grand children—know where they are and where they’re going. I say you should trust Tim Cook and Apple with your phone security. They have an overview and have thought it all through into the future and they know what they are talking about. They understand the situation and are acutely aware of just how dangerous it could be for their customers if their privacy and security is weakened. The people in Apple working hard to get you these amazing iPhones really care about your safety and the safety of your children and grand children.

  5. He does make an interesting existential point. What if the FBI is made aware of a potential upcoming terrorist attack and they can’t get access? I’m not sure I could live with myself knowing that everything wasn’t done to prevent it. Queue Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, “You’re Goddamn right I did!”

    In the end, though, America was built on the premise of bending over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to it’s citizens. Lots of criminals beat the rap due to legal technicalities designed to err on the side of the individual. That is part of the compromise we make with freedom “from.”

  6. Scary how many Americans are willing to be sheep. Just trust the government… pay higher taxes… allow spying and record keeping… I will never give up my freedom, never.

  7. Mr. Buffett is entirely right because he is a rich white man in a society full of losers like you.

    A lifetime of betting on the stock market qualifies you to do just about anything you want. Just look it up.

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