President Barack Obama said laws need to be updated to ensure the ability of governments to track terrorists' phone calls, email and social networks at a news conference Friday.
"The laws that might have been designed for the traditional wiretap have to be updated," Obama said at a joint appearance with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. "How we do that needs to be debated both here in the United States and in the U.K.
"I think we're getting better at it, I think we're striking the balance better, I think that companies here in the United States at least recognize that they have a responsibility to the public, but also want to make sure that they're meeting their responsibilities to their customers ... that are using their products."
Obama said that governments have been "scrupulous" about protecting privacy even as they put in place new tools to track terrorists.
"For the most part, those who are worried about Big Brother sometimes obscure or deliberately ignore all the legal safeguards have been put in place to assure people's privacy and to make sure that government is not abusing these powers," Obama said.
Obama talked about the need to "penetrate" the email, social media and phone calls of terror suspects and working with technology companies to do so while safeguarding privacy.
"If we get into a situation in which the technologies do not allow us at all to track somebody that we're confident is a terrorist, if we find evidence of a terrorist plot somewhere in the Middle East, that traces directly back to London or New York, we have specific information, we are confident that this individual or this network is about to activate a plot and, despite knowing that information, despite having a phone number or despite having a social media address or a e-mail address, that we — we can't penetrate that, that's a problem."
Cameron, who has been outspoken on this issue, said that major plots have been broken up in his country nearly every year he has been in power, and often because of the surveillance tools of the government.
"As technology develops, as the world moves on, we should try to avoid the safe havens that could otherwise be created for terrorists to talk to each other," he said.
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