AT&T CEO wants Silicon Valley to leave encryption regulation to politicians

by: Darcy LaCouveeJanuary 22, 2016
286

Randall_Stephenson,_CEO_of_AT&T

Consumer level data encryption has become a particularly hot topic in the US lately, with tech giants, legislators and Presidential hopefuls alike all weighing in their own opinions. AT&T is the latest company to chime in on the subject, and company Chief Executive Randall Stephenson believes that it should be up to the Congress, not tech companies, to determine US policy on encrypted data.

In case you’ve missed it, the issue revolves around the use of encryption in consumer level gadgets, such as your smartphone, and what effects this has on law enforcement and their ability to conduct investigations. Some suggest that a “backdoor” to company encryption methods should be mandatory in case governments require access, others want to ban device encryption entirely, and some companies want to protect user data regardless of what legislators believe.

“I don’t think it is Silicon Valley’s decision to make about whether encryption is the right thing to do. I understand Tim Cook’s decision, but I don’t think it’s his decision to make“ … “I personally think that this is an issue that should be decided by the American people and Congress, not by companies,” – Randall Stephenson, AT&T

The comment from AT&T comes after Apple CEO Tim Cook recently restated the company’s stance on user privacy, adding that backdoors simply aren’t viable as they could be exploited. Cook has been increasingly vocal about his opposition to policy proposals, stating that consumers shouldn’t have to choose between privacy and security.

The topic of encryption also sprung up during the recent US presidential debates, with both GOP and Democrat candidates calling for leading tech companies to do more to assist the government in the fight against terrorism. This issue isn’t limited to the USA though. Earlier in the month, Microsoft, Google and Facebook urged UK officials not to force communications service providers to decrypt customer traffic. All three believe that encryption is an essential security tool and are opposed to backdoors and forced decryption.

Where do you stand on device encryption? According to recent data, only 8 percent of Android users bother with it anyway.

  • tiger

    Only 8%? What’s the point?! Google services themselves lack proper encryption anyways! 8% sounds right after all! LOL

  • Pez Smith

    I hope they add backdoors to gadgets.
    This allows foreign security services the same access as the NSA.
    :)

  • Diego

    idiot.
    They know nothing about technology.

  • Diego

    Has the US government considered that if we put in a back door, then china and russia can use that back door?

    • tiger

      THEN you need to DEMAND Google apply END-TO-END encryption to all their services!!

      Otherwise, no matter how good your phone encryption is…Google/Android IS the backdoor! Why? Just ask the Chinese human rights activists who were arrested / killed by China government after they hacked GMAIL!

  • Eddie Hicks

    If there is a backdoor access to data for the government, it’s only a matter of time before people with bad intentions get a hold of it. I’m not an Apple fan but Tim Cook has it right. I understand national security but we are slowly losing more and more of our rights because of fear. At some point we must say enough is enough. I applaud the tech companies that stand up to the government and say no to backdoors.

    • tiger

      THEN you need to DEMAND Google apply END-TO-END encryption to all their services!!

      Otherwise, no matter how good your phone encryption is…Google/Android IS the backdoor!!

      Why? Just ask the Chinese human rights activists who were arrested / killed by China government after they hacked GMAIL!

  • s2weden2000

    Worst idea ever …

    • raffr

      That the government enacts laws?

      • s2weden2000

        Read the article…

  • Nibbler

    If that’s one thing I like about apple is their stand on encryption and privacy. rivaled by BB. after them the government has a hand everywhere else.

    • tiger

      THEN you need to DEMAND Google apply END-TO-END encryption to all their services!!

      Otherwise, no matter how good your phone encryption is…Google/Android IS the backdoor!

  • Alex

    He says:
    “I personally think that this is an issue that should be decided by the American people…”

    As a matter of fact, the only entities to act in the interest of the people (customers) are the companies because they are dependent on them. It is obvious that people do NOT want to be spied on by governments. If encryption is the solution for that, people are in favor of encryption.

    Governments on the other hand, especially in a two party system like the USA, couldn’t care less about what people want. They act in their self interest. Very few exceptions put aside.

  • Bernardo Ortiz

    There are more issues than “how decides on privacy”. According to US federal law, Medical professionals must protect patient confidentiality, informing them when the information is shared with a 3rd party, ie federal law requires that the data be encrypted. Now we are talking about banning the use of any piece of equipment that encodes patient records. Doctors will not be able to relay the data to other doctors by phone, or across the internet, even with patient permission, because the doctor does not know who, if anyone, may be listening in. This would be a violation of federal law and the Doctor (or other medical professional) would loose their license to practice in the US.

    It is in meeting laws, like the medical privacy laws, that there is an interest for encrypted phones, such as the newer iPhones and Android phones. It is not to break the law, but to be able to catch up to the existing laws, which are currently being violated. By this I mean a doctor is not supposed to discuss medical records with another health professional, even with patient permission, over a non-secured line.

    The real question is how do we impose one law that forces individuals to violate another law. Basically, if you do your job there will be no way of violating one, or the other law. This is why I think so many people have stepped in to say, we have too many laws, too much intrusion by the various governments. People must be free to do their jobs in the US.

  • YuCMi

    Oh yes, a carrier CEO’s opinion, the pinnacle of encryption and privacy, right?

  • Paul M

    I’ve personally had data leak when companies have had weak security and data has been stolen – anyone remember the big hack of Target a year or so back?
    Backdoors in security systems get discovered just like software bugs, and would be even more of a headache because they have been designed in and harder to fix in a hurry.
    Do we want more bugs and security breaches? Of course not?
    So do we want and need backdoors? Can you honestly say yes?

    The above argument is purely about control and containment of backdoors.

    Then we have to consider if we trust the government. The Snowden leaks prove they lie about what they do, and illegally spy on citizens.

    So do we trust the government to have backdoors? Can you honestly say yes?