FBI Director James Comey told a Boston audience this morning that \u201cubiquitous strong encryption\u201d \u2013 the kind now available on most smartphones and other digital devices \u2013 is threatening to undermine the \u201cbargain\u201d that he said has balanced privacy and security in the US since its founding.Actually, he went further, declaring that such default encryption \u201cshatters\u201d the bargain.\u201cThis is a big deal, and I urge you to continue to engage in a hard conversation about it. I love privacy, but I also love the bargain,\u201d he said, noting that the FBI\u2019s inability to crack encrypted devices means the investigative \u201croom\u201d where the agency works is increasingly growing dark, and therefore undermining security.Comey, who delivered the keynote address at the Boston Conference on Cyber Security, held at Boston College and cosponsored by the FBI and BC\u2019s Masters in Cybersecurity Policy & Governance Program, spoke at length about the overall cyber threat landscape and the critical importance of the public and private sectors sharing threat information.But he saved his most impassioned firepower for the end, when he warned that today\u2019s level of default encryption was increasingly blinding his agency\u2019s investigative capability.\u201cThere has always been a corner of the room that was dark \u2013 that was where sophisticated actors like nation states operated,\u201d he said. \u201cBut what\u2019s happened since (Edward) Snowden (the NSA contractor who made public classified documents that showed the agency was spying on US citizens) is that more and more of the room is dark. It\u2019s not just sophisticated actors. Now it\u2019s drug dealers, pedophiles and other bad actors. That shadow is spreading.\u201cLast fall we received 2,800 devices that we had lawful authority to open. And there were 1,200 we couldn\u2019t open with any technology tool. These were devices recovered in criminal, gang, terror and pedophile investigations.\u201dComey stressed multiple times that he \u201cloves privacy. We all have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes, cars and devices. Government can\u2019t invade them without good reason reviewable in court.\u201dBut he said with probable cause and a warrant approved by a court, \u201cgovernment can invade \u2013 that\u2019s the bargain. If government has probable cause, it can can search and seize \u2013 take whatever the judge said it could. Even our memories aren\u2019t totally private. The general principle is that there is no such thing as absolute privacy.\u201dEven our memories aren\u2019t totally private. The general principle is that there is no such thing as absolute privacy.James Comey, FBI directorComey said he is not seeking a \u201cback door\u201d into devices \u2013 the description of the famous 2015 conflict between the agency and Apple over unlocking the iPhone of a terrorist. But he argued that, \u201cuser control of data is not a requirement.\u201d He said the FBI issues devices to its employees that, \u201cby design don\u2019t require weak encryption,\u201d but still allow the employer to have access to the data. \u201cIt\u2019s a business model that frames it in a way that makes more sense,\u201d he said.He acknowledged that this would likely not convince Apple, or many privacy advocates, but urged that the debate be substantive and civil.\u201cWe need to stop the bumper stickers. We need to stop tweeting,\u201d he said. \u201cThere are no evil people in this discussion, so we need to stop trying to pit people against one another. We share the same values, so we need to find the space to have really hard conversation about how we want to live. What can we do that would optimize both (privacy and security)?\u201dComey\u2019s second most impassioned plea was for more cooperation between government and the private sector in sharing threat information.\u201cWe have to get better at it,\u201d he said.\u201cWhat is depressing is that the majority of intrusions are not reported to us,\u201d he said. \u201cThey are kept from us by companies who think they just need to take care of it and get on with business.\u201cThey think reporting the threat will be such a hassle. And that\u2019s a terrible place to be,\u201d he said, adding that while he supports hiring private-sector security companies to help respond to breaches, companies should still share what happened with the FBI.\u201cIf you\u2019re not sharing information with us, you\u2019ll be sorry,\u201d he said, \u201cbecause the threat will never go away. It\u2019s short sighted to conclude that our interests are not aligned.\u201dHe acknowledged that a big reason for reluctance by private companies to share is that they believe information they expose could be used to launch criminal or regulatory sanctions against them, or that their proprietary information will be shared with others.He contended that won\u2019t happen. \u201cWe will yammer at you constantly to explain how we operate and how we will help you not to be re-victimized,\u201d he said. \u201cWe think we have compelling track record that we will protect your privacy.\u201dHe said the agency is not interested in proprietary information or intellectual property \u2013 that it just needs to know the \u201ccontours\u201d of a network so that, \u201cwe will know how to help you in difficult circumstances.\u201cIf you don\u2019t know us, you\u2019re not doing your job,\u201d he said.Want to leave a comment, head to our Facebook page.